Supervolcano Under Naples Shows Signs Of Reawakening

First Posted: Dec 22, 2016 03:14 AM EST

In the Italian city of Naples lies one of the world's most dangerous supervolcanoes, and it seems that it is starting to wake again.

Campi Flegrei may now be nearing its critical pressure point that could drive it to erupt for the first time in 500 years, scientists suggest. Researchers also found that the volcano is moving toward a threshold, and beyond this, the rising magma could release fluids and gases up to 10 times the average rate in a surge that could cause extremely hot steam into its surrounding rocks.

Giovanni Chiodini, the lead author of the study, explained to AFP that hydrothermal rocks, once heated, can lose their mechanical resistance, which could cause the volcano to accelerate magma to critical conditions, ultimately triggering the "very dangerous" eruption for the millions of citizens living in Naples.

The Chicago Tribune noted that forecasting volcanic eruptions is not the easiest task. It is impossible to say when the Campi Flegrei could erupt, and everyone needs to be careful. There are 500,000 people living in and around the volcano itself.

Its last major eruption, for instance, happened over the course of a week back in 1538 and was able to create enough new material -- a new mountain -- the cinder cone Monte Nuovo. Campi Flegrei itself is around 39,000 years old and formed an eruption larger than anything over the past 200,000 year of history -- and its prehistoric outburst was suggested to be the one that led to a "volcanic winter," which led to the demise of the Neanderthals.

This certainly puts Campi Flegrei on the list as a supervolcano, which, according to the Independent UK is any one that is capable of an eruption that ejects a volume of material greater than 1,000 km3 -- thousands of times larger than the eruptions of the average volcano.

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