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Earthquakes For Members

Do scientists think the Campi Flegrei will actually erupt anytime soon?

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Do scientists think the Campi Flegrei will actually erupt anytime soon?
Smoke from the "solfatara" at the Campi Flegrei, a volcanic region close to Naples, on October 4, 2023 in Pozzuoli. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Residents of the Campi Flegrei, or Phlegraean Fields, were thrown into a panic on Monday night as the area was hit by around 150 earthquakes. But how likely is it that the volcanic crater will actually erupt?

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A series of tremors on the Campi Flegrei sparked widespread alarm late Monday, causing local residents to rush out into the streets and prompting Italy's Civil Protection Department to evacuate 39 families as a precautionary measure.

The Campi Flegrei is a caldera - that is, the hollow left after an eruption - and the largest of its kind in Europe, stretching from the outskirts of Naples into the sea.

Its eruption 40,000 years ago was the Mediterranean's most powerful, affecting the climate worldwide, and its periodic tremors and rumblings continue to alarm locals today.

In the 1980's, around 40,000 people were evacuated from the area after a period of intense seismic activity.

Last September, the volcano was hit by a 4.2-magnitude earthquake - the largest in four decades - quickly followed by a series of smaller quakes.

Despite the hazards of living near an active volcanic crater, the Campi Flegrei have remain densely populated over the millennia, in large part due to the area's mild climate and fertile soil.

But residents of Pozzuoli, a town on the Campi Flegrei dating back to ancient Greek times, say they live in a state of 'constant anxiety' at the looming threat of another eruption.

Scientists say an actual eruption - which last occurred in 1538 - is unlikely in the near future.

Volcanologist Sandro De Vita of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology told AFP news agency in October that he was "reasonably confident that we will not have an eruption in the short term".

The institute's monitoring system will pick up on significant changes, "allowing us to give advance notice of an eruption", he added.

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And while the NIGV's Mauro Di Vito told AFP reporters on Tuesday that Monday night's tremors represented "the most powerful seismic swarm in the last 40 years", a press release put out by the institute on the same day seemed intended to calm people's nerves.

During the "crisis" of 1982-1984 - which did not culminate in an eruption - over 1,300 seismic events were recorded per month, the NIGV noted.

By comparison, it said, around 450 events have been recorded in the past month - far fewer than in the 80's.

"People should not be afraid," the NIGV’s De Vita told AFP back in October.

"Or rather, they should be, but only when we say so." 

 

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