(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have announced that a long-dormant supervolcano located in Italy may soon wake up. And the consequences of its eruption will be catastrophic. This is reported by Space.com.
Phlegrean fields are the caldera of a giant volcano located near Naples. The volcano last erupted in 1538. Scientists now say that the caldera’s crust is becoming thinner and weaker, which “increases the likelihood of an eruption.”
More than 1.5 million people live above the large underground complex of the volcano, and half a million live inside its 11-kilometer-wide caldera, which was formed 39 thousand years ago.
If Phlegraean Fields repeats its previous large-scale eruption, it will spew molten rock and volcanic gases high into the atmosphere, trigger a 100-foot tsunami and send out a plume of sulfur and toxic ash that could plunge the Earth into a global winter, killing crops and causing mass extinctions.
At the same time, the lead author of the study, Christopher Kilburn, a professor of earth sciences at University College London, noted that it is impossible to unequivocally talk about the inevitability of an eruption. The rupture, the signs of which have been recorded by scientists, can simply open a crack in the ground, but the magma must come to the surface in a certain place for an eruption to occur.
The name Phlegraean Fields means “burning” or “fiery fields”. They are a network of 24 craters, mostly hidden, that stretch across from Mount Vesuvius on the western edge of Naples to the nearby Gulf of Puzzoli.
Although the Phlegrean Fields are often called a supervolcano, it cannot be said unequivocally that it is. Supervolcanoes are volcanoes that can produce eruptions of the highest power – 8 points according to the index of explosiveness of volcanoes – throwing out more than 1000 cubic kilometers of material.
But during the largest eruption in its history, the Phlegrean Fields threw out 285 cubic kilometers of rock, which corresponds to the seventh category.
The volcano has been active since the mid-20th century, with bursts of increased activity in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s. Another period of activity began in the last decade and continues to this day. The ground beneath Pozzuoli, a town perched atop a volcano, is rising at 10 centimeters a year, bringing it up four meters since the 1950s.
Small earthquakes constantly occur in the Phlegrean Fields. In April, 600 of them were recorded, which is the largest number ever observed here.
To determine how likely an eruption might be, the researchers combined seismic data with ground uplift measurements to map a region’s changing strength estimates to crustal tensile strength (the maximum stress a material can withstand before breaking) and its proximity to rupture.
The scientists’ model showed that the crust above the Phlegraean Fields breaks, not bends, under pressure. Deep underground, seething underground gas and magma has been slowly bending and weakening the volcano’s crust since the 1950s, reducing its tensile strength to a third of what it was in 1984, according to the study.
This means that even though earthquakes in the region are not as strong as in the 1980s, the weaker rock can fail under lower loads. This makes it harder for seismologists to predict earthquakes, and local residents have less time to evacuate.
Even so, scientists say that doesn’t mean a giant eruption is imminent. For this to happen, the gases must build up faster than they can escape, and the magma must also be able to move quickly through the crust where the fissure has formed. But whether these two conditions are met cannot be said for sure until the eruption takes place.
Phlegraean fields were mentioned in ancient Greek mythology. According to the myth, it was here that the gigantomachy took place – the battle of the gods led by Zeus, who was assisted by Heracles, with the giants.
Contact us: [email protected]