Vesuvius volcano (Italy): no eruption imminent

Wed, 8 Mar 2006, 16:07
16:07 PM | BY: TOM PFEIFFER

These days, Vesuvius is in the news AGAIN, with headlines such as: "Vesuvius Due for Giant Eruption -The next eruption of Europe's biggest volcano could come as early as next year and could be a doozie. ..."


It has been known for quite a while now that Vesuvius in its past has had a number of even more violent eruptions than the one that destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD, including the one now in the media, a Plinian eruption about 3800 years ago, destroying Bronz-Age settlements. But quite like the volcano Vesuvius has its cycles of activity (it's now in a dormant phase), there seems to be a cyclic process in the media that once every so long, Vesuvius must be portrayed as the killer volcano that might blow tomorrow.


The truth is that there is NO indication whatsoever that another big bang is likely to occur in any near future at Vesuvius these days. No reason to panick, no reason to address it with exaggerated headlines.


At present, Vesuvius is very calm and the most likely scenario, based on what is known about the volcano, is that it is going to continue its rest, probably for even another few centuries before coming to life again in a violent eruption. Would it be to erupt in the span of years or decades from now, the most likely scenario would probably be a sub-Plinian eruption,- a much smaller type of eruption than the one that occurred 3800 years ago, but still, desastrous enough to worry about, since the slopes of Vesuvius are more densly inhabited than ever, and even a minor eruption is bound to do considerable damage to life and property. 


Of course, it is also true that a more or less sudden, extremely large Plinian eruption cannot be completely excluded. As is true that for any case of larger eruption, be it a sub-Plinian or even a Plinian type event, there is an urgent need to prepare better. It is right, when media cite our colleagues from the Naples observatory, that this has been greatly neglected in the area around Vesuvius.
..more on Vesuvius

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