“Supervolcano” in a densely populated area Italy Researchers warn it could be on the verge of the first eruption since 1538.
Experts say the Campi Flegrei volcano near Naples in southern Italy has become weaker and more prone to rupture, making it more likely to erupt.
Located about nine miles (14.5 km) west of Naples, it is one of the few active supervolcanoes in the world.
About 360,000 people live on Campi Flegrei and may need to be evacuated if experts decide there is an imminent danger of an eruption, although scientists say there is no guarantee that one will happen soon.
When the volcano eventually erupts, it will likely be on a scale comparable to that of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD.
Experts say the Campi Flegrei volcano in southern Italy has become weaker and more prone to rupture, making it more likely to erupt. Pictured is Solfatara, a shallow volcanic crater that is part of the Campi Flegrei. Pay attention to the yellow stones formed by sulphurous gases.
Campi Flegrei is about nine miles (14.5 km) west of Naples and is one of the few active supervolcanoes in the world.
The study was conducted by experts from the Italian National Research Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and University College London (UCL).
Italy’s supervolcano: Campi Flegrei
The Campi Flegrei crater was formed 39,000 years ago by an explosion that sent hundreds of cubic kilometers of lava, rocks and debris into the air.
According to scientists, it was the largest eruption in Europe in the last 200,000 years.
Campi Flegrei last erupted in 1538, although on a much smaller scale.
Nearby Mount Vesuvius, whose powerful eruption just over 2,000 years ago buried several Roman settlements in the area, including Pompeii, is also classified as an active volcano.
Lead author Professor Christopher Kilburn of UCL’s Department of Geosciences said that Campi Flegrei is more susceptible to “tearing” — a tear or crack in the rock that makes up the volcano’s body.
“This is a natural result when a volcano stretches due to the buildup of pressure underground,” Professor Kilburn told MailOnline.
Once ruptured, it will be easier for the volcanic fluids to escape.
“That doesn’t mean they’ll run away – it’s just that it will be easier to do so than before.”
The rupture can open a crack in the earth’s crust, although the magma still needs to be pushed out in the right place for an eruption to occur.
The large eight-mile-wide Campi Flegrei caldera—its pool-like depression from a previous explosion—is located beneath the western edge of the city of Naples.
About a third of the caldera is partially submerged by the Gulf of Pozzuoli, while the remaining two-thirds is land that is home to more than 360,000 people.
Campi Flegrei (or “Fields of Fire”) is defined as a supervolcano because it can produce a magnitude eight eruption capable of ejecting over 200 cubic miles of material.
With a diameter of 7 to 9 miles (12 to 15 km), Campi Flegrei is the largest active caldera in Europe and extends west from the outskirts of Naples to the Tyrrhenian Sea. About a third partly submerged by the Gulf of Pozzuoli; the remaining two-thirds are home to over 360,000 people. The caldera is marked with a yellow dotted line; ground movement has occurred through the central area marked in blue
The image from the research paper shows an eight-mile-wide section through the large Campi Flegrei caldera. Since the mid-1980s, constant small earthquakes have been recorded here. The red dots represent seismicity between 1982 and 1984, and the green dots represent seismicity since 2005.
People live in the area and would be in danger if the volcano erupted again and ejected “pyroclastic flows” – hot and fast moving streams of gas and hardened lava particles.
Campi Flegrei last erupted when Henry VIII was last on the English throne, and this event occurred at intervals of about 3,000 years.
But the researchers warn that large calderas of this type often go through several decades of unrest before they erupt.
Campi Flegrei has been restless since the middle of the 20th century, which is of particular concern to scientists.
In the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s, it had several two-year periods of unrest, causing small local earthquakes and uplifts due to the movement of magma under the surface.
However, Campi Flegrei’s current tensile strength – the maximum stress a material can withstand before it breaks when stretched – is likely to be about a third of what it was in 1984, the researchers say.
What’s more, over the past decade, the land beneath Pozzuoli has been rising about four inches per year as the gas increases the pressure in the magma, causing the land’s surface to bulge and warp.
The new study used a volcano collapse model developed at the University of California to interpret earthquake and uplift models and concluded that parts of the volcano had been stretched almost to their limit.
Campi Flegrei (pictured) has a population of around 360,000, according to London-based researchers.
“This is the first time we have applied our model, based on the physics of rock failure, in real time to any volcano,” said Professor Kilburn.
“Our first use of the model was in 2017 and since then Campi Flegrei has been behaving as we predicted with an increasing number of small quakes indicating pressure from below.
“Now we will have to adjust our procedures to assess the chances of opening new pathways for magma or gas to come to the surface.”
It is worrying that a possible eruption could be preceded by relatively weak signals, such as slower ground uplift and fewer earthquakes.
So it was during the eruption Rabaul Caldera in Papua New Guinea in 1994.which resulted in only five deaths, largely due to good disaster planning.
The eruption was preceded by small earthquakes, occurring ten times less often than during the crisis a decade earlier.
Professor Kilburn said the authorities were well prepared in case of an emergency, although “there is no reason to believe that they are needed now.”
Immediate signs that the volcano is about to erupt are cracks in the ground and ejected dark streams of volcanic gases, although Campi Flegrei is not yet at this stage.
“The volcano is showing signs that the crust is weakening as it continues to stretch,” Professor Kilburn told MailOnline.
This is a natural process, but we can finally recognize it when it happens.
“This will help provide a clearer assessment of the behavior of the volcano in the future.”
The team will now apply the volcano collapse model to other volcanoes that have erupted after a long period of time to help “establish more robust criteria for deciding whether an eruption is likely.”
Research published in the journal Communications Land and environment.
HOW CAN RESEARCHERS PREDICT VOLCANO ERUPTIONS?
According to Eric Dunham, an associate professor in Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, “Volcanoes are complex and there are currently no universal means of predicting eruptions.” In all likelihood, it never will.
However, there are indicators of increased volcanic activity that researchers can use to predict volcanic eruptions.
Researchers can track metrics such as:
- Volcanic infrasound: When a lava lake rises in the crater of an open volcanic vent, which is a sign of a potential eruption, the pitch or frequency of the sounds generated by the magma tends to increase.
- seismic activity: Before an eruption, seismic activity in the form of small earthquakes and tremors almost always increases as magma moves through the plumbing system of the volcano.
- Gas emissions: As magma approaches the surface and the pressure decreases, gases escape. Sulfur dioxide is one of the main components of volcanic gases, and an increase in its amount is a sign of an increase in the amount of magma near the surface of the volcano.
- Soil deformation: Changes on the surface of a volcano (volcanic deformation) appear as swelling, subsidence, or cracking, which can be caused by movement of magma, gas, or other liquids (usually water) underground, or movements of the earth’s crust due to movement along a fault. lines. The swelling of a volcano can signal the accumulation of magma near the surface.