Recent earthquake activity in the Campi Flegrei, a super volcano near Naples, Italy, has raised concerns about the potential need for mass evacuations. While experts suggest there is no immediate threat of an eruption, the region has experienced hundreds of small earthquakes in recent weeks, with the strongest measuring 4.2 in magnitude, the most significant in four decades.
Campi Flegrei, which sits across the bay of Naples from Pompeii, is a much larger volcano than Mount Vesuvius. In the event of a full-force eruption, it could pose a significant risk to the densely populated region, potentially affecting millions of people.
Giuseppe De Natale, a leading volcanologist, has called for urgent building inspections due to the ongoing seismic activity, which is causing the ground to rise by approximately 1.5 cm per month. He noted that during a similar burst of earthquakes in the 1980s, around 40,000 people were temporarily evacuated from the nearby town of Pozzuoli, which now has a population of over 80,000.
While the immediate concern is seismic activity, De Natale acknowledges the possibility of an eruption, which would likely be a phreatic, or steam-blast eruption, initially characterized by its relative weakness and lack of new magma.
The Campi Flegrei are situated in a populated area with approximately 3 million residents in the Naples hinterland. The caldera of this super volcano has a diameter of about 12-15 km and last erupted in 1538. Research suggests that one of its largest eruptions around 39,000 years ago may have contributed to the extinction of Neanderthal man.
Volcanologists believe that the recent increase in earthquake activity could be linked to the movement of magma beneath the surface, releasing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. On average, over 3,000 tons of CO2 are being released daily from the Campi Flegrei, adding to concerns about the volcano’s potential impact.
While there is no immediate threat, ongoing monitoring and preparedness are crucial for the safety of the region’s residents in the event of any escalation.