One of Earth’s Ancient Supervolcanoes Reawakens –“Triggered a ‘Volcanic Winter’ 200,000 Years Ago”

 

 

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One of the planet’s most massive supervolcanoes is showng signs of a reawakening. An international team of geologists monitored the activity signs of the ancient volcano, Campi Flegrei with a large caldera, or depression, more than seven miles across, just west of Naples, that was formed thousands of years ago and has erupted several times in the recent geological periods. The study was published in Nature Communications. In response to the news, Italy’s government has raised the volcano’s threat level from green to yellow, urging a measured response to the study, followed by additional scientific work.

Campi Flegrei, which means “burning fields in Italian, first erupted 200,000 years ago, triggering a “volcanic winter” due to the massive amount of ash thrown into the atmosphere. The volcanic region is also known as the Phlegraean Fields.

Similar to other supervolcanoes—such as the one responsible for the geothermal features of the Yellowstone caldera —it is not a single volcanic cone. Rather, it’s a large complex, much of it underground or under the Mediterranean Sea, that includes 24 craters, as well as various geysers and vents that can release hot gas.

 

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In more recent times, Campi Flegrei erupted in 1538 eight consecutive days, raising a cloud of ash in Europe and leading to the formation of so-called Monte Nuovo.

The volcano in the Bay of Naples erupted again 40.000 years ago and 12.000 years respectively. Scientist believe that the eruption from 40,000 years ago was one of the greatest of all time and would have killed most of the Neanderthal hominids species in Europe, a 2010 study suggested, although that report has been subject to debate.

The international team cautions that it’s impossible to say with any certainty when an eruption might actually take place.

National Geograhic reports that “the scars of another supervolcano were recently found in the Sesia Valley in the Italian Alps. That eight-mile-wide caldera likely last erupted 280 million years ago, when it blasted out a thousand times more material than Mount St. Helens spewed during its infamous 1980 eruption. The result was the blocking out of the sun, which led to global cooling.”

“There will be another supervolcano explosion,” scientist James Quick, a geologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said in a statement when that volcano was found. “We don’t know where, [but] Sesia Valley could help us to predict the next event.”

The Daily Galaxy via nationalgeographic.com and Nature Communications

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Image credit top of page: show Tungurahua, the “Throat of Fire,” an active stratovolcano located in the Cordillera Oriental of Ecuador. With thanks to travelandleisure.com

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