Campi Flegrei – the giant caldera system located west of Naples in southern Italy – may not be as idle as we think. According to a study just published in Science Sciences, the ancient supervolcano has a rhythm in his harsh eruptions – and the music may have just begun.
This does not mean that Campi Flegrei is going to burst in the near future. The dormant giant is not a direct threat to the 1.5 million people living in the Naples area, notes Scientific notice.
However, it seems that the mass explosions that erupted in Campi Flegrei during the long history of the supervolcano match a particular pattern – which may have begun to unfold once again. Recent findings suggest that the volcano can create a mass deep below the Earth, indicating "the beginning of a new cycle of caliber in Campi Flegrei," writers write in their work.
"We propose that the underwater hydraulic system at Campi Flegrei is currently entering a new phase of accumulation, potentially ending, at some unspecified point in the future, in a large volume explosion."
A volatile story
Also known as Phlegraean Fields, Campi Flegrei is one of the few active supervolcanoes in the world. The imposing caldera system "is the largest volcanic feature along the Gulf of Naples, which also hosts the most famous Mount Vesuvius," NASA notes.
The huge volcanic complex – literally called "Fiery Fields" – consists of 24 craters and volcanic buildings (the virtual cone shape of a volcano, built from a lava buildup around an underlying ventilation). Although most of Campi Flegrei is hidden underneath the waters of the Gulf of Naples, much of the caldera is at the ground level, meaning you can walk right into it.
Adventurous hikers hiking in the caldera can spot some of the many fumaroles that crash in the supervolcano show – openings on the earth's crust from where the smoke comes out. For example, the photo below records a fumarol in the Solfatara Volcano of Campi Flegrei – a volcanic crater that also emits sulfuric gas.
Although the region exudes an enchanting, wild beauty, Campi Flegrei may actually be the most dangerous volcano on the planet, according to Discover magazine. Its turbulent history is characterized by two violent "super-explosions" that rank among the largest volcanic eruptions that have taken place in Europe over the last 40,000 years.
The first, known as the explosion of the Ignimbrite campanians, hit the Earth about 39,000 years ago, spreading ash in an area of about 1.4 million square miles. The Big Bang plunged the planet into a "volcanic winter" and may have been responsible for a major event of global extinction that may have eliminated the Neanderthals, Inquisitr have been reported previously.
The second "over-eruption" of the Caldera Campi Flegrei occurred about 15,000 years ago and is called the Napolitano Yellow Tuf, the explosion of the yellow rock that is exposed by the explosion.
The recent past
The most recent volcanic eruption at Campi Flegrei was much softer and occurred about 500 years ago. This last explosion led to the formation of a new mountain called Monte Nuova – forged by the burnt lava that shed during eight days.
About 20 other similar "plum" blasts have been recorded in the long history of supervolcano, which returns 60,000 years. After examining the material remaining from all these events, including the two mega-explosions that reformed the caldera, volcanologists discovered a hidden secret to the chemical composition of the crystallized magma.
As it turns out, the chemistry of volcanic rocks describes a particular pattern – implying that the explosions follow a certain cycle. And since the material installed after the last eruption also occurred during some other minor events in the past of the constructive, the group underlined that the circle may have just resumed.
Similar to the Monte Nuova explosion, these events also produced gas, saturated with water, a magma rich in carbon dioxide. The remarkable thing about these specific events is that they happened just before the Campanian Ignimbrite and Neapolitan Yellow Tuff events, the authors write in their paper.
"Our data reveals that the most recent Monte Nuovo eruption is characterized by very different magma, similar to those that fueled the activity before the caldera and the initial phases of the bursts that formed the caldera."
"We recommend this explosion to be an expression of a shift in magma storage conditions, where significant amounts of volatile substances are beginning to spread in the shallow pool," the group adds, arguing that this "may suggest that a large body of magma body is currently clogging down by Campi Flegrei. "
Does this mean that the supervolcano is cooking a new mass explosion? Not necessarily, says study author Francesca Forni, a volunteer at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore
"In fact, we do not know for sure what the next step will be," said Forni National Geographic, explaining that the magma could either ignite a new accumulation cycle or cool down and resume sleeping.
As he points out, the chemical analysis of the last explosion "shows[s] that the mattress tank can be "ready" to receive the magma from recharging without burst often ".