Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Valls <3 Business

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

New French economy minister signals changes to 35-hour week

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'Macron-economy' pun already worn out

Read more

DEBATE

What Next for Gaza? Lasting Ceasefire Agreed After 50 Days of War (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

What Next for Gaza? Lasting Ceasefire Agreed After 50 Days of War

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Terrorist ransoms: Should governments pay up for hostages?

Read more

ENCORE!

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche star in 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

Read more

WEB NEWS

India: journalist launches "Rice Bucket Challenge"

Read more

  • Ukraine calls on NATO amid rebel counter-attack

    Read more

  • New French economy minister takes swipe at 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Assad cannot be ally in fight against IS, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Erdogan's inauguration paves way for constitutional change

    Read more

  • Air France suspends flights to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone

    Read more

  • Platini will not run against Blatter for FIFA presidency

    Read more

  • Uzi shooting by 9-year-old rekindles gun debate

    Read more

  • Mother of American journalist asks IS leader for his release

    Read more

  • UN probe accuses Syrian regime, Islamists of ‘crimes against humanity’

    Read more

  • Uruguayans sign up to grow marijuana at home

    Read more

  • Missouri governor appoints black public safety director

    Read more

  • French unemployment rises 0.8% in July to record high

    Read more

  • Video: Iraq’s Yazidis flee to spiritual capital of Lalish

    Read more

  • Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

    Read more

  • Airstrikes and Assad - Obama’s military conundrum in Syria

    Read more

  • IMF’s Lagarde investigated in French corruption case

    Read more

  • In pictures: The ministers in France's new government

    Read more

Vesuvius could repeat a Pompei-style eruption

Latest update : 2008-09-10

In paper published in the London science journal 'Nature', French and Italian scientist have stressed that Italy's infamous Vesuvius could have a new eruption as intense as the one that destroyed Pompei.

French and Italian scientists said on Wednesday they could not rule out another cataclysmic explosion by Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii in AD79.

Vesuvius has been capricious throughout history, blowing up in explosive clouds of dust and poisonous, superheated gas but at other times erupting more safely, rolling lava slowly down its conical flanks.

It has been dormant since 1944.

But in a paper published by the London science journal Nature, the Franco-Italian trio warn that this sleep will not be eternal.

They report that the volcano's magma chamber, deep beneath the surface, has been steadily rising over the past 20,000 years.

The shallowest reservoir now lies at a depth of eight to nine kilometres (five to 5.5 miles).

The chamber's depth determines the chemical composition of the magma and also the way in which its energy will be released, they explain.

Lead researcher Bruno Scaillet of the Institute of Earth Sciences in Orleans, France, said it was crucial to identify the composition of the magma lurking at the top of the chamber.

"If this magma is of a more acid composition, a type similar to the one which caused the Pompei eruption, you can can expect an extremely explosive, dangerous eruption," he told AFP.

In such an event, 700,000 people would be potentially at threat, he said.

"On the other hand, if the magma is of mainly basalt composition, as in the last eruption in 1944, it would be of a flow type, with streams of lava, and that would be far less destructive."

Geological signatures show that from about 20,000 years ago to the Pompeii eruption in AD79, Vesuvius had a treaclier magma associated with violent eruptions preceded by billowing clouds of suffocating dust and toxic gas, according to the paper.

But from 1631 to 1944, hundreds of safer "lava-flow" eruptions occurred, similar to what is happening at the moment at the Stromboli volcano on Sicily.

Scaillet warned: "Just because there has been this trend for 2,000 years doesn't mean we can rule out a return to more acid magma" capable of unleashing catastrophic eruptions.

"And because there hasn't been an eruption since 1944 doesn't mean we can say there won't be any more."

Vesuvius' comforting silence over the past 64 years could be attributable to a filling-up of the magma chamber, but equally it could mean that the chamber's ceiling has been sealed over, he said.

If so, the volcano could explode like a bolted-down lid on a pressure cooker.

"We cannot rule out this scenario," said Scaillet.

Date created : 2008-09-10

COMMENT(S)