Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A monster volcano underneath Naples

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Axel Bojanowski writing in New Scientist:

To ancient Romans the Phlegraean Fields hosted the entrance to Hades. In modern times it is better known as the site of a "supercolossal" volcanic eruption 39,000 years ago.

Will we see the next disaster coming? That’s one of the questions an ambitious drilling project hopes to answer by sinking boreholes into Campi Flegrei, as the giant collapsed volcanic crater is now called. Starting as early as next month, the Campi Flegrei Deep Drilling Project is planning to drill seven holes in the region (see map).

Though the researchers on this particular project point out that any risk is small, it will begin amid debate about whether such endeavours are safe, given the unknowns of a volcano’s interior. A few say drilling might even trigger a major eruption.

Though the caldera has no visible volcanic cone, it dwarfs nearby Vesuvius. "Most of the metropolitan area of Naples is located within the caldera," says Giuseppe De Natale of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology’s (INGV) Vesuvius Observatory in Naples, who is leading the project.

"A major eruption, like the one 39,000 years ago, would leave large parts of Europe buried under a thick layer of ash," says Agust Gudmundsson of the Royal Holloway University of London, one of the researchers involved in the drilling project. Since then, smaller eruptions have occurred every few centuries.

According to a study of the region by Roberto Isaia of the INGV and colleagues, Campi Flegrei is "one of the highest risk volcanic areas on Earth" and may now be primed for a blast. Isaia and colleagues found deposits from an intense period of eruptions around 4000 years ago. Before the eruptions the Earth’s crust rose by several metres all across the caldera. Worryingly, crustal uplift is exactly what has happened recently. Since the late 1960s, the port of Pozzuoli near the caldera’s centre has risen by around 3 metres. Hazard planners should prepare for eruptions in decades or less, Isaia concludes (Geophysical Research Letters, in press)…

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Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2009 at 11:26 am

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