Supervolcano associated with Neanderthal extinction shows signs of life

When we think of super-destructing volcanoes that have marked history, it is virtually impossible not to think of Mount Vesuvius - which caused the ruin of Pompeii nearly two millennia ago. No one knows for sure how many people perished as a result of the famous eruption of the year 79, but between 1, 500 and 2, 000 bodies were found between Pompeii and Herculaneum, a neighboring town also affected by the incident.

Potentially lethal

For Italy is home to another of these destructive structures - only much bigger and much more powerful: a supervolcano! In fact, instead of being a volcano itself, in the form of a mountain that spits smoke, ash and lava, a supervolcano is characterized by being a caldera, that is, a large area of ​​great volcanic activity that forms after a volcano erupts and ejects so much lava and material that it collapses.

Campi Flegrei on the left, not far from the famous Mount Vesuvius

In the case of the Italian caldera, it is called Campi Flegrei - or Campos Flégreos - and formed from one of the largest volcanic eruptions in Europe in the last 200, 000 years. Occupying an area of ​​13 kilometers, this immense structure is made up of 24 craters, geysers, hot springs and volcanic buildings, and is situated under the southern city of Naples, not far from Vesuvius.

Since its inception, the Campi Flegrei supervolcano has been the scene of only two major eruptions, one about 40, 000 years ago and the other about 12, 000 years ago. There was also a minor eruption - compared to the previous two - in the year 1538, during which the boiler spewed lava for eight straight days and resulted in the formation of a new mountain in the region!

Incidentally, returning to the eruption that occurred 40, 000 years ago, it was one of the largest ever, and some studies suggest that the event may have triggered the extinction of Neanderthals in Europe. Now a group of experts who have been monitoring activity in the Campi Flegrei area has issued a worrying warning. According to scientists, the supervolcano seems to be wanting to erupt.

Danger signs

According to the expert group, surveys have indicated that Campus Flegrei is approaching a dangerous critical pressure point that could trigger a major eruption. As they explained, since 2005, soil deformations in the supervolcano area have been detected - more precisely, elevations of around 40 centimeters have been identified - indicating that magma is releasing superheated gases under the surface.

Expert surveys indicate that things are "boiling" in the boiler

This activity can, in turn, lead to overheating of rocks and hydrothermal fluids in the area and cause the rocks to lose their mechanical strength - further worsening the situation and accelerating the evolution of the whole thing towards an inevitable eruption. And what is the real risk right now?

It is still quite difficult to predict at this time whether activity recorded at Campi Flegrei will actually culminate in a major eruption, but Italian authorities have raised the warning risk from green to yellow. After all, although everyone is hoping that the supervolcano will simply (let out some gas and) go back to sleep, the situation is still quite worrying.

Aerial image of Naples region, one of the most dangerous in the world regarding volcanic activity

That's because two active volcanoes - the Sierra Negra in Galapagos and the Rabaul in Papua New Guinea - behaved similarly to Campi Flegrei before it erupted, which is not a good sign. In addition, as we mentioned earlier, the Italian boiler is in the Naples region, one of the most densely populated areas in Europe.

There are about 3 million people living there, and if Campus Flegrei really wakes up, it is estimated that about 500, 000 of them will be directly affected. Therefore, the warning is for authorities to begin to seriously consider how they will deal with the situation if the supervolcano decides to spit lava.