July 6, 2022

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Earthquake just hit Europe’s supervolcano Campi Flegrei

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A magnitude 4.3 earthquake has been recorded at the supervolcano Campi Flegrei, which sits beneath the sea off the western coast of Italy, around nine miles from Naples. Campi Flegrei is one of the world’s most populated active volcanoes, with over 2.2 million people living within around three miles of the site.

The earthquake struck at a depth of around 250 miles just before midnight local time. It was preceded by a magnitude 3.6 earthquake at approximately 7.45 p.m.

The largest earthquake to hit Campi Flegrei in 2021 was a magnitude 3 in May. There was a magnitude 4 earthquake in August 2017.

Volcanic activity in the region relates to the convergence of the African plate and the Eurasian plate. The volcano consists of 24 craters and edifices.

Stock image showing Ischia Procida and the Phlegraean Gulf. Campi Flegrei sits beneath the ocean off the western coast of Italy.
Getty Images

Campi Flegrei’s last eruption was a fairly small event in 1538. This event, known as the Monte Nuovo eruption, was preceded by years of huge uplift of the ground, with the land at the center rising by tens of feet out of the sea. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in the hours before the eruption, the shore rose so fast that fish were trapped and the coastline moved 1,200 feet into the sea.

On the day of the eruption, a crack opened in the uplifted area, releasing huge amounts of pumice, fire and smoke.

USGS map showing the location of the magnitude 4.3 earthquake. Campi Flegrei is one of the world’s most populated active volcanoes.
USGS

The volcano has also produced much larger eruptions, with one 40,000 years ago being classed as a “super-colossal” eruption. This is one down from the “mega-colossal” eruptions recorded at Yellowstone.

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In the last 60 years, the region has shown signs of unrest, with uplift recorded at the site. Scientists have said the volcano could be entering a pre-eruptive state, with magma accumulating beneath.

While scientists say this does not mean an eruption is imminent, it could mean there will be one at some point in the future, so should be used in mitigation plans for the area. If and when the volcano does erupt, models indicate it could produce a 100-foot tsunami that would severely impact coastal areas like Pozzuoli and Sorrento.

In research published in Scientific Reports in February, scientists looked at the patterns of seismic activity at Campi Flegrei to estimate the mechanisms involved. They analyzed six earthquake swarms that have taken place over the last two decades.

Findings showed these swarms were associated with stress related to uplift at the caldera. They said they believe the current unrest is the result of the gradual increase of activity at a wide hydrothermal system at the Pisciarelli Fumarole Field.

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