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Campi Flegrei

bjdeming

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No changes; everything is waiting on the volcano (which is what makes these crises so nerve-wracking and expensive).

Volcanologist Eric Klemetti summed up things at Campi Flegrei in his blog today.

Here is something he wrote about Vesuvius several years ago and that's important to share, too, because some Neapolitans, quite logically, are looking at Campi Flegrei on one side of town, Vesuvius on the other, and counting earthquakes at both (Italian).

That's not how either volcano works. As I learned from doing the Decade Volcano chapter (one of the final drafts here), Vesuvius might have cycles. It might start a cycle with a bang, i.e., the Pompeii eruption in 79 AD after around eight centuries of sleep, or it might end a cycle that way. The boffins are still debating it.

But it does its own thing, just as Campi Flegrei and the other Naples-area caldera (that hides under the sea around the island of Ischia) do their own respective things.

If you go far enough down, of course they're all connected because all volcanoes' ultimate magma source is the planet's mantle.

But each volcano on Earth is the result of mantle magma finding a separate way up to the surface. It is a slow process and oodles of geochemistry happen along the way, changing that magma's chemistry and therefore the volcano's behavior.

One such pathway has led to a restless giant caldera: Campi Flegrei.

Another has led to a normal-sized composite cone volcano that throws a tantrum now and then.

Apples and oranges, so to speak.

Neapolitans and many others are stuck in the middle, but the clown to the right is Eurasia and the slowly approaching joker to the left is Africa.

(Aaaand now I can't get that song out of my head.)

Basically, earthquakes are going to happen -- Italy is in a continental collision, and the INGV experts factor that in as they monitor Campi Flegrei and Vesuvius.

[Layperson speculation] I realize that there is only too-well-founded mistrust of authorities here.

But sometimes you've just gotta trust (just don't wait on them when making decisions about personal safety). And INGV is part of the international volcanology network, too, with a whole world of boffins looking over their shoulder right now. If INGV is not worried enough about a few quakes under or near Vesuvio to raise its alert level (they haven't), then Naples doesn't need to take on that worry right now, either. [/Layperson speculation]
 
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bjdeming

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Napoli Today reports in detail on the tweaked evacuation plan. This is how to handle a volcano emergency in a major city.

[Layperson opinion] It's good to encourage people to get out on their own, while also supporting those who ask for assistance.

One question is the possibility of phreatic (steam explosion) eruptions. As I understand it, they don't give much warning; OTOH, the best minds on the planet (at INGV and abroad) are on this like white on rice and every little twitch and quiver is being analyzed thoroughly. They won't miss much.

Second: Hydrothermal or magmatic, will the volcano give them 72 hours' warning? We'll see. Hopefully, it will just settle down. The positive thing here is that this plan puts residents in the right state of mind to act constructively in the face of whatever Campi Flegrei decides to do.

Third: Things happen fast once eruptions are underway. The million or so people in the Yellow Zone have more options but need to stay on their toes, too.

Fourth: From the little reading I've done, it appears that the best outcomes occur when aftermath plans are in place before the emergency. Of course, this is an unprecedented situation -- major world city and the size of population at risk -- and, really, everyone's world has already changed forever...but there always comes a future. How will Neapolitans construct theirs, even if there is no eruption?[/Layperson opinion]

Meanwhile, US troops are stationed here, too, and probably very busy these days, given the Middle East situation.
 

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In the last few hours, another swarm has started, per online news sources. It's centered in the Solfatara area and the strongest temblor thus far has reportedly only been M1.9, but that was very shallow and felt in several neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, about 11 hours ago, this reliable (though, I think, lay) source did a terrific thread on the seismic crisis. (I would copy/paste Twitter's translation, but each tweet has its own graphics).

 

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Well, going by the InSAR image, the amount of ground uplifting is impressive, but it's really just typical volcano deformation.

Exhibit A: Kilauea this past week, likely to soon have an eruption on its south flank:



Back in 1994, Rabaul Caldera in Papua New Guinea had a rather large but not super eruption, and the precursors included new land and even an island forming as the caldera inflated.

This has happened to a lesser degree from time to time at Campi Flegrei -- in 1970, fishing boats tied to piers sat on solid ground at Rione Terra (center of that InSAR bull's-eye now), and in 1548 so much new land formed that they were trying to figure out who owned it and how to tax it -- until the Monte Nuovo eruption began.

There hasn't been 1548-style deformation like that yet, and really, that's the worst-case scenario now, per everything I've read.

The satellite instruments are really sensitive, so we get a detailed image like that for what is most likely to be a small steam-driven or magmatic eruption (which is necessary because of all the people and human "stuff" at risk).

Worst-case scenario, something like this (with maybe some Surtseyan explosions if it extends out into Pozzuoli Bay at all):



Paricutin is a cinder cone just like Monte Nuovo.

But this would be (presumably) at or near the city line between Naples and Pozzuoli, not in a corn field. Very bad.

That's what I think of on looking at the interferogram (and feel guilty for the simultaneous "Wow!" reaction).

The graphics in Il Mondo"s tweet are scary looking, but it's just nature, which is huge, but slow.

For a supereruption, well, they might have to invent new InSAR equipment to measure the deformation :) :



That's from the Musem of New Zealand, modeling the planet's last supereruption, about 26,000 years ago at Taupo.

Nothing on that scale has been reported at Campi Flegrei; they just mention very small magma movements. And that's in the pipes close to the surface (but still a couple miles down). The big reservoir is farther down. It's degassing; that rising gas, plus some movement of magmatic fluids, are behind the deformation.

Maybe there will be a blowout, perhaps at or around the uninhabited Solfatara. Maybe, if it's powerful enough, that might get some of the superficial magma going (i.e., Monte Nuovo).

A supereruption and its precursors operate on a whole 'nother level, and INGV would pick it up in time to evacuate -- Campania?

What scares me about supereruptions is that the next one could come out of nowhere. It just isn't possible to monitor the whole planet, though again, big clues are so much deformation, so many new thermal features, and with preliminary plinian eruptions (if it follows the Taupo pattern).

The question is how much time we would have to prepare before the new caldera opened up.

Sigh.

Not at all likely to happen at Campi Flegrei now or during our lifetime: bottom line.
 
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bjdeming

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The strongest shock thus far in the current swarm is a M3.6.

Dr. Giuseppe de Natale gave an interview (autotranslated) to fanpage.it (of all places!), making it clear that he was speaking as an individual only, saying:

Today new shock 3.6 and seismic swarm. Has anything changed or is it changing compared to the picture we know in recent times?

The strongest event of the sequence (magnitude 3.6 Richter) is located on the eastern edge of Solfatara, less than 2 km deep. As far as we know (I speak here in a personal capacity, as a researcher who has been dealing with these phenomena for 40 years) there is no change taking place: unfortunately, as long as the ground uplift persists, seismicity can only increase.

Myself and our research group have been saying this since 2017, when the seismicity was extremely less pronounced, and I personally warned the leaders of my Institute already in October 2018, reiterating the warning in March 2022, when it was now clear that the seismicity had already increased significantly. After the strongest earthquakes there are generally a few days, or weeks, of less activity; but as long as the ground uplift persists, seismicity unfortunately resumes, and can also generate much stronger events (up to about magnitude 5).

...

...the epicenters of the strongest earthquake...generally occur in the Solfatara-Agnano area and sometimes as far as Via Napoli. The biggest problem is precisely that of buildings located in the immediate vicinity of the strongest earthquakes, which, being extremely superficial, can seriously damage them; even more so considering that they are already tested by previous seismicity.

For this reason, in the areas most at risk, it is extremely urgent to check the state of public and private buildings and clear out the most dilapidated ones. In my certified email dated 18 September 2023 to the Prefecture of Naples, I also suggested that buildings within a short distance of the Solfatara-Agnano area be evacuated as a precaution, while checks were carried out.

It's unusual for volcanologists to do this -- speaking with one voice is emphasized again and again in the papers I've read.

This is just the opinion of a layperson, one who is totally out of the picture there, but given Dr. de Natale's major status (and an already successful career behind him), I get the general impression that there might be a Jaws-like argument going on behind the scenes with the Mayor of Amity Island politicians and other power players over evacuation.

Certainly someone of Dr. de Natale's stature and accomplishments has less to lose to retaliatory moves than early to mid-career scientists, or the Institute itself.

This paper provides an in-depth look at the complex social situation in Naples that Dr. Natale and everyone else face here:

Carlino, S. 2021. Brief history of volcanic risk in the Neapolitan area (Campania, southern Italy): a critical review. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 21(10): 3097-3112.

It wasn't until I watched it decades later that I realized the mayor had a good point; the actor playing him did a superb job portraying a man with no easy choices to make. His character arc was really a tragedy.
 

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Dr. Mauro Di Vito is quoted in this article (autotranslated) about the new seismic swarm.

No new changes, and that M3.6 the other day is still the largest.

Of note, he mentions all the carbon dioxide coming out as gas. Yes, the outgassing and subsequent uplift are bad news, but that it's CO2 is good news -- a sign that magma is way down there, not near the surface.

Physical and geochemistry are not my strong points, so I can't get into the why of it (anyone care to help?), but it's well established that magma degasses CO2 at depth and SO2 closer to the surface, where there is less pressure on the magma column.

The TROPOMI SO2 satellite, for example, picked up a surge of sulfur dioxide from Sakurajima shortly before its recent blast.

Meanwhile, at Yellowstone the YVO team devoted their weekly chronicle to deformation at restless calderas. :cool:

Campi Flegrei is the most dramatic these days, but it happens at other volcanoes, too. (The boffins get into Yellowstone's complexities, like seasonal runoff, but note that overall this caldera has subsided quite a bit over the last 14,000 years -- more good news.)
 

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No major changes, as far as I can tell, but I saw this (autotranslated) in the news: Campania and Rome, at least -- perhaps the whole country -- are moving into SMS alerts, which is great, but criminals exploit it, sending fake alerts to trick people who are new to this system into downloading spyware that steals their banking info.

Inevitable end result will be distrust of the valuable emergency alert system and widespread refusal to use it.


Just in case someone from the region stumbles across this, that news story confirms that the real emergency alert system is (emphasis added) "...un servizio che, per funzionare, non necessita di alcuna azione da parte degli utenti. Come nei test di prova delle scorse settimane, si riceve semplicemente un messaggio automatico che notifica di un evento di interesse, per lo più circoscritto local..."

"...this is not an application but a service which, to work, does not require any action on the part of users. As in the tests of recent weeks, you simply receive an automatic message notifying you of an event of interest, mostly limited locally..."

That's per Google Translate.

If Dante were around today, he might describe a whole new circle of Hell for people who misuse alert systems this way, perhaps one in which they experience over and over again the disasters that those systems are meant to warn people of.

Not that I'm vindictive or anything... ;)
 

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I just love this article's header; in English, via Google Translate:

Seismic swarm in the Campi Flegrei with 12 earthquakes in 7 minutes: earth trembles at dawn, the situation​

New seismic swarm underway in the Campi Flegrei, with 12 tremors in 7 minutes at dawn which worry citizens​


Not laughing; it's a serious matter (strongest temblor thus far is M2.2). I just really do love the appropriately dramatic Italian spirit behind some coverage of this dramatic event in Italy.

Anyway, the swarm apparently just developed within the last couple of hours; we'll see what happens.
 

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From this source, per Google Translate (no tweets yet from INGV):

The Vesuvian Observatory has communicated to this administration that a sequence of seismic events has been underway in the Campi Flegrei area since 5.58 am . At the time of issue of this press release, 10 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 0.5 to 2.2″ were preliminarily detected - this is the note released by the Municipality of Pozzuoli.

It does sound different from descriptions of earlier swarms:

Precisely because of the shallow depth, the tremors were clearly felt by the population living in the area. Some people say they also heard small explosions, in addition to various vibrations that lasted for several minutes.

You perceive more than one every few seconds . It seemed like a long time but there were at least three on average” – is the comment of a user released on the Facebook group Those of the red zone of the Campi Flegrei. In the same vein, another citizen who underlined: "Different shocks, these seemed more like continuous vibrations"
 

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No more reported swarms yet, as far as I can tell. Today, reportedly, there was to be a meeting in Rome that local scientists and politicians attended, but no news seems available yet on that.

In Campi Flegrei they had some fun, demolishing a tower in an abandoned factory before earthquakes brought it down:

 

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Reuters and some other English-language online news sources have stories up today about the seismic swarms, but I see nothing local. There was a M2.2 a few days ago but that's been all -- no new swarms.

They have reportedly checked about 30% of the buildings at risk thus far. (INGV personnel have said repeatedly that the unrest could produce quakes up to around M5.)

There was a M4-something about 450 km under Naples Bay recently -- unrelated.

I saw some news about the meeting in Rome, but it was all general stuff in the Italian news articles -- no details. My guess is that, with the nation's capital involved now, the international news agencies are doing backgrounders.
 

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Per browser translation of this article (Italian):

For a few days now we have been seeing some seismographs recording the activity of the rather "agitated" Campi Flegrei . What does it mean? The seismogram (i.e. the graph resulting from the recordings made by the seismograph pen) reports constant oscillations. Is there anything to worry about? Absolutely not: Fanpage.it asked the Ingv volcanologist Giuseppe De Natale , the answer is reassuring: it is the action of the strong wind. And at the stations located on the coast, even in rough seas. In recent days Naples has had a weather alert due to sporadic thunderstorms but above all due to stronger than usual sirocco winds.

I love it that this technical info is getting reported!
 

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I guess this is one result of the talks in Rome. Italy's Civil Protection Minister has broached the possibility of an Orange alert level (autotranslated), apparently not because of any new developments (INGV's last bulletin reported that no developments were expected in the short term) but to get everyone on the same page and improve efficiency in response to any trouble (which likely would unfold quickly).

At least one mayor is not happy, but I hope that they are able at least to evacuate the area around Solfatara in case there is a steam blast.
 

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When I saw this article's headline "Two supervolcanoes..." my first impression was "sensationalism." :(

Actually, it's pretty good. (Will add some Long Valley links over in the volcano thread.)

Also, INGV reports in its latest bulletin that the inflation rate slowed down in the latter half of October -- no wonder swarms have dropped off.
 
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Kind of wandered into meteorology a bit with a blog post today; here it is FWIW. Anyone: thoughts on the value of natural hazard warnings?

INGV noted in their most recent bulletin that the rate of inflation slowed a bit over the second half of October.

And a local mayor, like Dr. De Natale before him, turns to Fanpage (autotranslated) with his Orange-alert/evacuation-related argument:

But it must be understood that the orange alert would lead to the evacuation of prisons and hospitals and a blocking of entrances to the Campi Flegrei: this would lead to isolation and would have a significant impact on the local economy. For this reason, such an alarmist communication has sent the population into agitation: it must be understood that here there are no packages to move, but there are people, with lives, jobs, commercial activities.

This is a heart-breaking dilemma, although personally I side with the scientists who point out the dangers.

It is true that volcanoes sometimes "choke" (look like they will get violent and then stop), and countless people have their lives and incomes turned upside down by warnings that appeared to be unjustified.

But they were justified; the boffins were trying to protect as many people as possible from scalding to death in a steam blast or being crushed by the rubble of their homes or being at Ground Zero when magma breaches the surface.

Too, this is unfolding in a country that has shown willingness to press criminal charges against scientists who do not issue warnings (L'Aquila earthquake trials).

Even if it weren't something as big as Campi Flegrei acting up -- possibly with a weakened lid now, too, compared to the Eighties crisis -- of course the scientists and their governmental supporters are going to err (if it comes to "err," which I don't think it has yet) on the side of caution.

This is a historic event in terms of natural hazard warning terms.

In the US, for instance, they didn't want to scare people by issuing tornado warnings, but two hapless military mets did anyway -- and saved lives and property.

Now such warnings are routine, but so is "storm stress."

Volcanoes operate more slowly, and with much more extensive damage possible. The costs of warnings and the sociopolitical issues they raise are correspondingly larger.

All I know is that I don't want there to be people around, if the Solfatara region does this --



-- as it well could, without physical warning signs, or worse, if the "Monte Nuovo" scenario occurs.
 

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Thought of a example to use of a frequently erupting volcano -- Java's Mount Merapi, which is almost like weather to the million or so people who live and work on it

Every three or four years it oozes lava out of the summit, builds a dome, which crumbles into pyroclastic flows. Everyone avoids the flow fields; the summit is a "forbidden zone" that everyone visits when it's not active (because some unenforceable laws are only suggestions); and life goes on.

In 2010, volcanologists issued a Level 4 alert, which happens with these eruptions. It mandates evacuations and everybody stays put as they did in 2010, waiting to see ashfall or pyroclastic flows over on the flow field before leaving.

Nothing happened. The next day, around 5 p.m., Merapi exploded and this was filmed an hour later (they're going up the volcano to try and rescue a religious leader -- Mbah Maridjan -- who stayed and perished about two hours after this team left):



It turned out that Merapi had decided to have one of its 100-year blasts, which are bad.

Those rescuers are looking upward as they wipe the windshield because they are within a mile or two of the active vent.

My point is, a panic like that in the Naples area wouldn't play out as relatively efficiently as it did at Merapi, where the volcano is sort of like "weather" and this was an unexpectedly severe "storm."

And what scientists and officials are trying to do with this alert system is manage the evacuation crisis before it happens. I'm sure they regret the disruptions now, but they also know better than most what the horrible alternative is.
 
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