December 24, 2016

Meanwhile: At the Intersection of The Eurasian and African Tectonic Plates...

One of our crack team of catgirl vulcanologists brings us news of some scientific research that is potentially consequential and downright igneous.

 Catgirl Vulcanologist by Minus T

Campi Flegiri, a large caldera in Italy that sacred clickbaitery requires us to refer to as a SUPERVOLCANO appears to be acting up. This is somewhat misleading, since the whole caldera (now a park) has been in a state of mild eruption since at least Roman times, with geysers and such as well as a small volcano Solfatara within it is frequently spitting forth sulphur (but last had a real eruption in the middle ages). 

Somewhere between 37,000 and 40,000 years ago the area erupted with a Volcanic Explosivity Index estimated at 7, which is a pretty fair amount of 'splody, broadly in the same ballpark as Mount Tambora's 1815 blast

Now, since that blast, the area has divided its magma between a lot of volcanoes (one of which is Vesuvius) and they tend to not be earth changing events, though as Vesuvius showed in A.D. 79, they can be quite calamitous locally. They're volcanoes...they're unpredictable and dangerous. Well this caldera has gotten to a point that scientists say people should start to worry...

Writing in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, scientists report that the caldera is nearing a critical point at which decreased pressure on rising magma triggers a runaway release of gas and fluid, potentially leading to an eruption.

...or not.

You see, volcanoes are not exactly what one would call predictable. Even if scientists had a perfect plumbing diagram of the magma chambers and accurate pressure readings to go along with that, the volcano is not built to code, so the structural integrity of each magma pocket is unknown as is the exact composition of the magma beyond educated guesses. This means that it's hard to know if the "plumbing" system will rearange itself, hold tight till the magma cools, or suffer a structural cascade failure and spew molten lava all over the place. This, in turn, means that other than "Hmm....magma chamber is" it's really hard to time an eruption with any accuracy better than a decade...or two.

The problem here is that the volcanic caldera in question, is now a park smack blab in the middle of the Naples metropolitan area and its ~4million people. Even a small eruption like Paricutin could have a surprisingly large death toll. An eruption along the lines of Mt.St Helens 1982 (a mere firecracker in volcano terms) could be an absolute calamity. 

Henrik, over at Volcano Cafe did a study of this very igneous safety hazard some time ago and concluded that this is, even with a small eruption, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world in terms of potential lives lost. A big Vesuvius style eruption or larger would be one of the biggest calamities in history.

Read the whole thing. 

UPDATE: The actual paper by Giovanni Chiodini and his team is here

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 11:44 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 She has four ears, so you know she's listened to all the facts....

Posted by: Mauser at Sat Dec 24 14:57:04 2016 (5Ktpu)

2 Not to be paranoid, but the vial of San Gennaro's blood did not do its thing this year, and that is historically followed by Very Bad Things. So yeah, signs say that this is not the year to vacation in Naples.

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at Sun Dec 25 16:56:55 2016 (S0Svy)

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