USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington
Italy Volcanoes and Volcanics
- Italy Volcanoes and Volcanics
- Campi Flegrei Caldera - Phlegraean Fields Caldera
- Vesuvius - Somma-Vesuvius Volcanic Complex
Italy Volcanoes and Volcanics
Major Volcanoes of Italy
Simkin and Siebert, 1994,
Volcanoes of the World:
Geoscience Press, Inc., Published in association with Smithsonian Institution.
This region ... is marked by traditions of record-keeping that go back
thousands of years and by generations of historians devoted to mining those
records. It is often called "The Cradle of Western Civilization", but it is
also very much the cradle of volcanology. The earliest know documentation of
volcanism is an Anatolian wall painting of a nearby cinder cone eruption
around 6200 BC; the vigorous record of
goes back to 1500 BC; and the catastrophic eruption of
in 79 AD, with the burial of Pompeii, continues to serve today as an object
lesson in volcanism. The region has given us the first documented "new
Monte Nuovo (Campi Flegrei),
in 1538, the first "new island" at
in 197 BC, and the word "volcano" itself (derived from Vulcan, the Roman god
of fire). ...
The volcanism of this broad region, stretching from
to the Caucasus, is largely the result of
convergence between the Eurasian Plate and the northward-moving African Plate.
The geology is diverse and complex, with microplates defying easy tectonic generalizations.
However, subduction under the
Greek islands (Hellenic arc)
southern Italy (Calabrian arc)
explains the region's principal volcanic centers.
Select Major Volcanoes of Italy
- Campi Flegrei - Caldera - 458 meters high - ~13 kilometers diameter - Historical
- Etna - Shield Volcano - 3,350 meters high - Historical Eruptions
- Stromboli - Stratovolcano - 926 meters high - Historical Eruptions
- Vesuvius - Complex Volcano - 1,281 meters high - Historical Eruptions
- Vulcano - Stratovolcano - 500 meters high - Historical Eruptions
Campi Flegrei Caldera, Italy
Phlegraean Fields Caldera, Italy
Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program Website, May 2000
Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields) is a
approximately 12-14 kilometers across, located around 25 kilometers west of
and 15 kilometers west-southwest of Naples. The caldera formed after a large
eruption 35,000 years ago that produced 80 cubic kilometers of dense rock.
Several other eruptions of decreasing intensity have occurred since then; its
most recent eruption was in 1538. Since Roman times, Campi Flegrei has
undergone vertical ground movements. During 1982-85, several ground
upheaval and subsidence events were reported. ...
Since the ground upheaval events of 1982-84, systematic geochemical
surveillance has been performed at Campi Flegrei. Fumarolic gases,
crater lakes, and thermal springs have been monitored ...
Newhall and Dzurisin, 1988,
Historical Unrest at Large Quaternary Calderas:
USGS Bulletin 1855
The Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei)
is a volcanic area in southern Italy near the
city of Naples; the town of Pozzuoli lies near the center of the Phlegraean
Fields Caldera. Volcanic activity began in the late
and has been localized at the edge of the Campanian Plain,
which also includes
volcanoes are located on the Tyrrhenian margin of the Apennine chain in a zone
of intensely affected by extensional tectonism during the Quaternary (Armienti
and others, 1983).
The volcanic field consists of multiple phreatic explosion craters and cinder
cones within a 13-kilometer-diameter collapse caldera. The caldera formed
about 35,000 years B.P. during or soon after the eruption of 80 cubic
kilometers of Campanian tuff (Rosi and others, 1983). Much of the postcaldera
volcanism occurred between 10,000 years B.P. and 8,000 years B.P., and between
4,700 years B.P., and 3,000 years B.P. (Rosi and others, 1983); different
periods of post-caldera volcanism are inferred by Di Girolamo and others
(1984). Postcaldera vents have migrated toward the center of the caldera and
erupted volumes have decreased, suggesting progressive crystallization of a
shallow magma reservoir (Armienti and others, 1983; Rosi and others, 1983).
High temperatures (400 degrees C at 3-kilometer depth) and contact
metamorphism of rocks penetrated by
suggest that the top of the magma reservoir is now 4-5 kilometers deep. Early
postcaldera volcanism was submarine; most subsequent volcanism has been
subaerial. All periods of postcaldera volcanism have included frequent
phreatic and phreatomagmatic explosions. ...
The caldera has a long history of uplift and subsidence as recorded in the
geological record ... The caldera is also a classic locality of so-called
bradyseisms (Greek for slow earthquakes, referring to decades to centuries of
uplift and subsidence), as recorded in historical documents and by once
submerged, then elevated, and now once again submerged Roman structures
(Palatino, 1826; Babbage, 1847; Parascandola, 1947). The famous Serapeo
marketplace in Pozzuoli has two generations of floors, the second built when
the first one sank below sea level. ...
Slow uplift and subsidence are also known from other points in the Bay of
Pozzuoli. Parascandola (1947) cites accounts of a pier at Nisida, built in
the second century B.C., which was 6 meters lower in the early 18th century
than when built. Roman ruins are also found below sea level along the northen
and western shores of the Bay of Pozzuoli, near Monte Nuovo (Baia) and
Miseno respectively (Palatino, 1826; Parascandola, 1947).
The Phlegraean Fields' long history of dramatic ground movements is unsurpassed
anywhere in the world. Since Roman times, the elevation of the caldera floor has varied by
more than 12 meters; in the 48 hours before the most recent eruption in 1538
(Monte Nuovo), the floor rose
by at least 4-5 meters. ...
From: Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Website, 2001
Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city,
has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism. Historical
lava flows cover much of the surface of this massive basaltic
Italy's highest and most voluminous volcano. The Mongibello stratovolcano,
truncated by several small
was constructed during the late
Pleistocene and Holocene
over an older
The most prominent morphological feature of
Etna is the Valle del Bove, a 5 x 10 kilometer horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the east.
Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur at Etna.
Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place
from one or more of the three prominent summit craters, the Central Crater,
NE Crater, and SE Crater (the latter formed in 1978). Flank vents,
typically with higher effusion rates, produce eruptions from fissures
that open progressively downward from near the summit
(usually accompanied by strombolian eruptions at the upper end).
are commonly constructed over the vents of lower flank lava flows.
Lava flows extend to the foot of the volcano on all sides and have reached the
sea over a broad area on the SE flank.
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Website, 2001
Spectacular incandescent nighttime explosions at Stromboli volcano have long
attracted visitors to the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean." Stromboli,
the northeast-most of the Aeolian Islands, has lent its name to the frequent
mild explosive activity that has characterized its eruptions throughout historical time.
The small, 926-meter-high island of Stromboli is the emergent summit of a volcano
that grew in two main eruptive cycles, the last of which formed the western
portion of the island. The active summit vents are located at the head of the
Sciara del Fuoco, a horseshoe-shaped scarp formed as a result of slope failure
that extends to below sea level and funnels pyroclastic ejecta and lava flows to the northwest.
Essentially continuous mild strombolian explosions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows,
have been recorded at Stromboli since Roman times.
Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Somma-Vesuvius Volcanic Complex
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program Website, May 2000
The Somma-Vesuvius volcanic complex is a central
formed by and older stratovolcano (Monte Somma) with a
partially filled by the composite cone of Vesuvius. The most noted
eruption, in 79 A.D., destroyed the ancient cities of Pompeii and
Hurculaneum. Since the explosive sub-Plinian eruption of 1631,
Vesuvius has erupted with both Strombolian and mixed
effusive-explosive styles. For the past three centuries the volcanic activity
has mainly focused inside the Somma caldera but occasionally lava
issued outside it (i.e., 1760 eruption). The last cycle of activity ended
with the 1944 eruption. Since then, the volcano has been characterized by
moderate seismicity and intra-crater
Tilling, 1985, Volcanoes: USGS General Interest Publication.
On August 24, A.D.79, Vesuvius Volcano suddenly explosed and destroyed
the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Although
had shown stirrings of life when a succession of earthquakes in A.D.63 caused
some damage, it had been literally quiet for hundreds of years and was
considered "extinct". Its surface and crater were green and covered with
vegetation, so the eruption was totally unexpected. Yet in a few hours, hot
volcanic ash and dust buried the two cities so thoroughly that their ruins were
not uncovered for nearly 1,700 years, when the discovery of an outer wall in
1748 started a period of modern archeology. Vesuvius
has continued its activity
intermittently ever since A.D.79 with numerous minor eruptions and several major
eruptions occurring in 1631, 1794, 1872, 1906, and in 1944 in the midst of the
Italian campaign of World War II. ...
In a "Vesuvian"
eruption, as typified by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
in A.D.79, great quantities of ash-laden gas are violently discharged to form a
cauliflower-shaped cloud high above the volcano.
Tilling, 1985, Volcanoes: USGS General Interest Publication
The word "volcano" comes from the little island of Vulcano
in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area
believed that Vulcano was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan -- the blacksmith
of the Roman gods. They thought that the hot lava fragments and clouds of dust
erupting form Vulcano came from Vulcan's forge as he beat out thunderbolts for
Jupiter, king of the gods, and weapons for Mars, the god of war. In Polynesia
the people attributed eruptive activity to the beautiful but wrathful Pele,
Goddess of Volcanoes, whenever she was angry or spiteful. Today we know that
volcanic eruptions are not super-natural but can be studied and interpreted by
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Website, 2001
Vulcano is located at the southern boundary of the Aeolian Islands,
about 25 kilometers from northern Sicily. It last erupted in 1888-90
when numerous meter-sized bombs and blocks fell in the area now occupied
by the village of Vulcano Porto, which hosts thousands of tourists daily
during the summer season. Vulcanello, the youngest part of Vulcano Island,
began to form only ~2,100 years ago as an isolated island that later
became connected with the main island. The latest activity at Vulcanello
occurred in the 16th century when lava flows, now covered by large hotel
complexes, were extruded.
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