Thursday, December 22, 2016

Campi Flegrei Could Be Close To An Eruption

A new scientific paper published by Italian and French volcanologists is raising anxiety levels over the possibility of a new volcanic eruption from Italy's version of Yellowstone - Campi Flegrei. The Flegrean Fields have long been known for their simmering hotsprings and fumeroles, and it has been known for decades that the land was rapidly inflating. Ancient ruins that showed signs of previous submarine immersion are a-plenty in Naples, and the landscape betrays a violent past.

Geysers, solfataras (which coincidentally owe their name to the region), mudpots, fumeroles, and gaseous fissures plague the region, and new gas vents have recently opened up as the land expands. Now, as it turns out this could spell absolute disaster for Italy, which has already experienced an unfortunate amount of strong earthquakes. Campi Flegrei is near ready to rupture, according the the study.

Now, take this with a grain of salt here, this report does not mean the eruption will happen tomorrow, if at all. But if current trends continue, it does not look good.

There is of course a vigorous debate as to whether inflation in the region is caused by the injection of mew magma into the supervolcanic magma chamber, but competing theories suggest the deformation is hydrothermal in nature. Neither scenario is particularly great.

If the deformation and inflation of the volcanic system is *only* hydrothermal, this could easily end up being a catastrophic phreatic eruption. This could be just as powerful as any fresh magmatic eruption, though likely brief. However if this is the result of new magmatic injection, as the study (linked at top) suggests, then this is definitely very bad news.

The study indicates that there is a 'point of no return' in regards to gas concentration and temperature, where gases that decompress could be hot enough to overcome the tensile strength of the crustal ceiling of the magma chamber, which would result in rapid decompression - an eruption. The study bleakly suggests that this threshold is RAPIDLY approaching. And if this is true, and the current rate of inflation holds steady, then Campi Flegrei is likely to erupt. How strong, nobody is sure, and when, or how strong cannot be accurately predicted.

A super-eruption of Campi Flegrei would immediately put the city of Naples in dire peril, if not effect outright annihilation. The initial eruption would quite quickly generate a tsunami and ash cloud, with the tsunami wiping out vast areas of coastal Tunisia and Algeria. The ash fallout (depending on wind currents) would likely circumnavigate the globe in days to weeks, ushering in a global winter for many years. Keep in mind, the famed 'year without a summer' was generated by a *mere* VEI7 eruption of Tambora. A VEI 8 is at least a thousand times more powerful.

The last super eruption seen by mankind was the eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia, some 75,000 years ago (according to ice cores and sediment records). This reduced a robust population of early humans down to about 5,000 individuals according to genetic and geological/archaeological studies. Today's human population has a better shot at survival due to our level of technological development on many fronts, but the poorest areas of the globe would likely suffer devastating losses.


To put this into visual perspective....


Italy as thus increased the threat level of the volcano from "green" to "yellow" warranting urgent study. If in fact this giant is ready to blow, we'll likely need all the information we can get, and as soon as possible.

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