Monday, January 7, 2013

Mount Vesuvius 2013 A.D.

Writer-philosopher George Santayana once commented "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." Nowhere in this world is that more apropos than in the image above which was captured on New Year's Day 2013 from the International Space Station. The prominent peak at bottom-center is the infamous killer across human history (going back at least 3800 years) named Vesuvius while the body of water at right is the Gulf of Naples. Given how many people it has killed logic would dictate for human beings to avoid living too closely in its shadow for fear of becoming its latest victims. As this image makes plain that is foolishly not the case as the area sports a teaming human population of over 3 million people in direct danger of being harmed when the mountain invariably explosively erupts again in and around the Naples region. One can only hope the mountain will give plenty of warning and the Italian government will be up to the task of relocating millions of evacuees and that the locals will not be obstinate and insist on remaining or returning if the mountain does not blow its top soon after reawakening. Will the next great natural disaster in human history occur here? The most recent one was in the Indian Ocean in 2004. How much time does the above region have left?


  1. It will be very tough to determine, especially for Italian Geologists, given what has occurred with the arrests of the Italy scientists convicted of manslaughter for 'failing to predict' an earthquake...

    That beign said, as far as I know Vesuvius is not ready to erupt at this time... I would be more concerned with some of its neighbors like Campi Flegrei, which has experienced on average about 8cm of uplift per year, increased gas emission, and increased fumerole temperature.

    Vesuvius last erupted in the 1960's, with not a lot of damage to the area. The catastrophic eruption that wiped out Pompeii and Herculaneum was a "Plinian" eruption that emptied a very massive amount of magma from the chamber, creating the current caldera type shape. The magma chamber of Vesuvius is nowhere near as powerful as that eruption, so it is unlikely that it will generate that sort of destructive potential any time soon. More likley is that it may have en eruption in the next several years or decades, and that eruption would likely be a VEI 3 or 4 event, which could generate ashfall and some pyroclastic flow.

    Vesuvius is also part of a test program using muons to image the magma chamber in 3D, generating a picture of low-velocity zones (magma) within the volcano. This technology is being used on a few other volcanoes to attempt to predict (at least by a few hours) an euruption.

    Long story short, the disaster of Pompeii will not likely be repeated. Our technology is far superior to the ancient Romans, the volcano does not have the potential for the same plinian explosion at this stage, and I'll bet you that Italian Scientists are no longer interested in the prediction business, nor making mistakes!

    But yeah, I am starting to worry about Campi Flegrei. You can read about it on my blog:

  2. Hey, Matt, thanks for taking the time to respond here and I beg your pardon for not responding in kind sooner but time got away from me. Better late than never, eh? I agree with your comments and appreciate the greater detail you provided. I guess what concerns me is what Chaiten did in 2008 when its magma rose 5 km in 4 hours immediately preceding the eruption. That was something not seen before and it makes one wonder what else we haven't seen before that mountains like not only Chaiten but Vesuvius are capable of doing to us. I'm sure you've seen this before but here it is again:

  3. typed ( in great detail) instructions on how to get from Paso Robles to mt Vesuvius