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Italy's Supervolcano 'Campi Flegrei' Is Rumbling to Life After Decades -- Will an Eruption Occur?

May 17, 2017 11:00 AM EDT
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Campi Flegrei
The Campi Flegrei has been restless for 67 years including two-year periods of unrest of small earthquakes in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. Five hundred years ago, a similar pattern of unrest occurred and eventually led to the violent eruption in 1538.
(Photo : earthsky102/YouTube)

There's a supervolcano in Italy called Campi Flegrei and it's been rumbling to life the past several decades. As a large caldera, it doesn't look like the typical conical volcano, but it's certainly as dangerous.

Throughout history, Campi Flegrei has had two major eruptions: 35,000 years ago and 12,000 years ago, a report from Science Alert revealed. There was also a "smaller" eruption in 1538 that lasted eight days and formed an entire new mountain out of the material it ejected.

According to a report from Phys Org, a team from University College London (UCL) and the Vesuvius Observatory in Naples used a new model of volcano fracturing to track the volcanic activity that might show signs of possible eruption.

The Campi Flegrei supervolcano has been restless for 67 years including two-year periods of unrest of small earthquakes in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. Five hundred years ago, a similar pattern of unrest occurred and eventually led to the violent eruption in 1538.

The unrest that began in the '50s has led to a build-up of energy in the crust, which makes the volcano more vulnerable to eruption.

"By studying how the ground is cracking and moving at Campi Flegrei, we think it may be approaching a critical stage where further unrest will increase the possibility of an eruption, and it's imperative that the authorities are prepared for this," UCL Hazard Centre director Dr Christopher Kilburn said. "We don't know when or if this long-term unrest will lead to an eruption, but Campi Flegrei is following a trend we've seen when testing our model on other volcanoes, including Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, El Hierro in the Canary Islands, and Soufriere Hills on Montserrat in the Caribbean."

What's behind the unrest is magma movement three kilometers underneath the supervolcano. When the ground stretches to its breaking point, an eruption is more likely to happen because molten can escape in the cracks.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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