Scientists said this week a volcano in southern Italy might be getting ready to erupt. A group of researchers found the first direct evidence of a “hot zone” feeding a supervolcano in Italy, which they believe is about to erupt, Phys.com reports.
The volcanic caldera is called Campi Flegrei, which last erupted centuries ago. Researchers said in a study in the journal Scientific Reports that their research on Campi Flegrei could help experts better predict when a volcano is going to erupt.
The volcano, located west of Naples, is classified as a supervolcano because it once experienced an eruption of a magnitude eight on the Volcano Explosivity Index. Magnitude 8 is the highest on the scale.
Campo Flegrei might be on the verge of an eruption
Campo Flegrei has been relatively quiet since the 1980s when the injection of magma –or other fluids—in the shallower structure of the supervolcano caused a series of small earthquakes. The researchers used seismological techniques and were able to locate the “hot zone” where molten materials rose to feed the caldera during this period.
“One question that has puzzled scientists is where magma is located beneath the caldera, and our study provides the first evidence of a hot zone under the city of Pozzuoli that extends into a sea at a depth of 4 km,” said Dr. Luca De Siena at the University of Aberdeen, the study’s lead author, according to Phys.com.
Dr. Siena added that while the site is the most probable location of a small batch of magma, “it could also be the heated fluid-filled top of a wider magma chamber, located even deeper.”
The new study is providing a new benchmark that could help scientists determine when and where volcanoes are going to explode.
Supervolcano is becoming more dangerous
Dr. De Siena’s research suggests that magma was prevented from rising to the surface in the 1980s due to the presence of a 1-2 km-deep rock formation that blocked its path, which forced it to release stress along a lateral route. That re-route incident was likely the cause of the series of earthquakes that took place that decade.
The implications of the study aren’t entirely understood yet, but the researchers believe the relatively small amount of seismic activity in the area since the 1980s suggests that pressure has been building up within Campi Flegrei, making it more dangerous.
“During the last 30 years the behavior of the volcano has changed, with everything becoming hotter due to fluids permeating the entire caldera,” said Dr. De Siena. “Whatever produced the activity under Pozzuoli in the 1980s has migrated somewhere else, so the danger doesn’t just lie in the same spot, it could now be much nearer to Naples, which is more densely populated.”
The doctor noted that you could now characterize the supervolcano as “being like a boiling pot of soup beneath the surface.” De Siena acknowledged they don’t know what that means regarding the scale of any future eruption, but stressed that the volcano is becoming more dangerous.
“The big question we have to answer now is if it is a big layer of magma that is rising to the surface or something less worrying which could find its way to the surface out at sea,” he said.