Campi Flegrei supervolcano in Italy awakening

Fumarole and crater walls inside active vulcano Solfatara, Campi Flegrei supervolcano, ItalyThe long dormant Campi Flegrei supervolcano in Italy may be waking up.

Scientists have published a study in the journal Nature Communications showing that Campi Flegrei is approaching the CDP (Critical Degassing Pressure). This is a sign that suggests the volcano is approaching a critical state and could erupt in the next few years.

The scientists led by Giovanni Chiodini of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome warn that a sudden release of hot magmatic gasses is possible in the near future, which could trigger a large eruption. Yet the timing of any possible eruption is unknown and is currently not possible to predict.

In response to the news, the Italian government has raised the volcano’s threat level from green to yellow, or from quiet to requires scientific monitoring. In other words, the government is urging a measured response to the study, followed by additional scientific work.

The volcano lies under 500,000 people in the Naples metropolitan area. An eruption of the Campi Flegrei supervolcano would be devasting to the local population.

The last eruption of Campi Flegrei was in 1538 when it expelled sufficient material to create Monte Nuovo.

The 8 mile wide caldera of Campi Flegrei is 39,000 years old, formed by an eruption larger than anything else in Europe in the past 200,000 years. A 2010 study in the journal Current Anthropology suggested that this eruption – which ejected almost a trillion gallons of molten rock and released just as much sulphur into the atmosphere – triggered a ‘volcanic winter’ that led to the demise of the Neanderthals, who died out shortly afterward.

The scientists looked at several dormant calderas around the world and found Campi Flegrei supervolcano to be showing the clearest signs of unrest.