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Campi Flegrei Volcano Approaching A Critical Stage: Closer To An Eruption?

16 May 2017, 9:16 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
The port at Pozzuoli, Campi Flegrei. Uplift since 1982 is shown by the difference in level between the parked cars and where the boats are now mooring. A new study indicated that the Campi Flegrei volcano in southern Italy may erupt sooner than expected. The eruption could occur due to massive energy build-up in the volcano for the past few decades.  ( S. A. K. Michnowicz | University College London )

Researchers caution that one of the most dangerous super volcanoes on Earth — Campi Flegrei in southern Italy — may erupt sooner than expected. According to scientists, the volcano has been slowly reawakening and a massive eruption is possible any day.

The University College London in collaboration with the Vesuvius Observatory in Naples undertook a new research, which indicates that the energy inside the volcano was building up in the past few decades and this has increased the risk of an eruption.

Campi Flegrei volcano is located nine miles west of Naples in a huge volcanic field. With 24 craters and edifices, the volcano's eruption will risk life and damage property of over a million people who reside in Naples.

Campi Flegrei Volcano To Erupt Sooner Than Expected: Why This Sudden Development?

The super volcano Campi Flegrei last erupted in 1538 after it took nearly a century to build up the necessary energy. However, it has been showing signs of unrest since the last 67 years with two-year periods of instability in the 1950s, 1970s, and the 1980s. These small turbulences resulted in ground uplifts and minor earthquakes in the region.

To study if Campi Flegrei may erupt again, researchers developed a new volcano fracturing model at the UCL campus. During the course of the study, they discovered that the period of unrest during the 1950s resulted in the accumulation of energy in the crust. This energy accumulation led to the volcano becoming more prone to erupt.

Earlier it was deduced that after each period of restlessness the energy required to stretch the crust eventually dissipated with time. On the basis of how the ground was cracking and movement patterns at the volcano, researchers suspect that Campi Flegrei could erupt in the near future.

"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," Christopher Kilburn, director at the UCL Hazard Centre explained.

The researchers asserted that there is no assurance that this eruption will take place. They also noted that they cannot predict the exact timeline of the eruption, if it occurs. However, the team observed the trend Campi Flegrei has following — which matches other volcano models including El Hierro in the Canary Islands, Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, and the Soufriere Hills on Montserrat in the Caribbean — to arrive at their analysis.

Kilburn shared that the team studied in-depth physical models of these volcanoes to acquire detailed information and understanding about volcanic unrest and eruptions. This data may help them forecast upcoming volcanic outbursts.

Effects Of Volcanic Unrest

The three previous periods of unrest the Campi Flegrei volcano displayed resulted in the port of Pozzuoli, which is located close to the unrest center, being pushed over three meters out to the sea. Moreover, the unrest periods in 1970 and 1983 resulted in the evacuation of several thousand Pozzuoli resident to safer areas.

In an interview with Newsweek, the study's co-author Giuseppe De Natale stated that in the previous years of unrest at the Campi Flegrei volcano, human life was less impacted vis-à-vis damage to property. However, he warned that if the volcano erupted with full force, administrative authorities must be ready to tackle huge amounts of seismic activity. He asserted that this may lead to a state of emergency.

The key findings of the study have been published in journal Nature Communications on Monday May 15.

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