One of the most famous super-volcanos in Italy (Campi Flegrei) could erupt sooner than expected, scientists warn. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1538.
By studying the activities of the past 500 years, researchers predict that it reaches a “critical stage” when any future instability would lead to eruption.
The volcano is unstable for 67 years already, with two years of instability. Those happened in the 1950’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, causing small local earthquakes and rising of the ground.
Scientists from the University of California and the Observatory of Vesuvius in Naples, using a new model, studied the regularities in the activity of Campi Flegrei in order to investigate whether the volcano is “ready” for an eruption.
They found that this instability in the last 67 years has a cumulative effect, causing increased energy in the crust. This makes the volcano very prone to eruption.
Similar behavior of the volcano was observed 500 years ago, when after a century of lava accumulation an eruption occurred. It happened in 1538.
Scientists noticed the movement of magma in the areas of about three kilometers below the volcano, which is the cause of instability.
Eruption becomes more likely when ground is stretched to the point of cracking, because lava can crack through the surface.
It is difficult to predict when it might erupt. Because even when the ground cracks, magma can stop before it surfaces.
On three occasions it was detected an elevation of the ground, totaling more than three meters. But cracking of the crust never happened.
Campi Flegrei covers an area of 100 square kilometers, west of Naples. The center has a huge, 12 km wide caldera with 24 craters, mostly hidden under the Mediterranean Sea.
The eruption of this volcano during daytime would affect the lives of 360,000 people living in the vicinity of the caldera and nearly one million people around Naples.
Scientists hope that this research will encourage the authorities to prepare for a possible eruption.
“Examining the cracking and movement on the ground shows that we have come to a critical stage when the volatility increases the possibility of the eruption and the key is the power to be ready. We do not know when this instability will lead to eruption. But, there is a trend that we have noticed in studying other volcanoes” – concludes Christopher Kilburn, leader of the research.