The world’s most ill-begotten piece of real estate

Gulf of Naples (Campi Flegrei Caldera) with Vesuvius in the background.

Few cities on the planet can even start to compete with Naples in being ominously placed from a geological standpoint. The city has not only a tremendous historical background; it is also totally surrounded with active super volcanoes.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of having dinner in a villa on the slopes of Monte Vesuvius together with Italy’s car tycoon numero uno. After a tasty dinner together with nice wines we were sitting looking out at the ocean drinking a ridiculously old grappa (grappa tastes like a rotting hamster-cage smells) and I just had to ask if he never where worried about having a villa on one of the worlds more famous volcanoes. The answer was rather Italian; He turned around, raised all five fingers into the air in the general direction of Vesuvius and uttered the Italian immortal phrase “va’fan’culo”. I interpreted it as “who cares”. Actually it is a bit stronger than that in translation.

Vesuvius residing within the Monte Somma Caldera.

But in a way it summed up the Neapolitan view on their 3 troublesome super volcanoes. To hell with them. Basically this opinion explains why the citizens even do their best to impede scientific work on their volcanoes. In 2010 the mayor of Naples stopped drilling into Campi Flegrei to increase the monitoring of the volcano.

Naples has more than 4 million inhabitants in the greater Naples urban area; at least 1 million of them are directly threatened by the 3 giants under them. In theory there is a plan to evacuate the citizens, but 3 factors would most likely hamper any evacuation.

Image by NASA. Campi Flegrei seen from space.

The first one is of course the issue with the “va’fan’culo” attitude against their volcanoes. Most likely many would not heed an evacuation order in time. The second issue showed itself during the Campi Flegrei inflation periods of 1970 and 1984 to 1985. Back then inflation pushed Pozzuoli up more than 3.3 meters, and still only an area of 10 city blocks was evacuated. This points to it being likely that political pressure would impede any scientific call for evacuation before it was too late. The third reason is quite simply the poor state of the road network in and out of Naples. There is just no way to evacuate 1 million people in the stipulated 3 days. An amount of time that could well be quite less after the usual Italian political infighting.

Not even mighty ancient castle walls are protection for Naples.

This was the first part out of a 4 piece special. In the next 3 I will go through all 3 super-volcanoes in turn. Since all 3 of them are so different, and pose so different types of risks they deserve at least one post each.

Now you are most likely going, where did he find a third super volcano? Well, that will become clear in the next post.



323 thoughts on “The world’s most ill-begotten piece of real estate

  1. Quake swarm in Faial-Azores too… 2012-05-02 09:25:53 38.732 -28.982 2.7 ML WNW Faial
    2012-05-02 09:24:51 38.7 -29.032 2.3 ML WNW Faial 2012-05-01 20:30:08 38.605 -29.467 2.3 ML W Faial
    2012-05-01 01:14:14 38.869 -29.093 2.7 ML NW Faial
    2012-05-01 01:05:56 38.921 -29.121 2.5 ML NW Faial

    • It seems the volcano there is restless. I would be interesting to see the depth of all the earthquakes there, and harmonic tremor data.

      • I would keap my eyes out for a large (and then I mean humongous) quake-swarm at Don Joao de Castro Bank. That volcano is the most probable volcano to erupt soon. Here one should think Bob gone Hulk, and then put on stereoids.
        It i whaming massiv volcano 13 metres under the surface, it would go supersized Surtsey withing seconds…
        Okay, I admit… This is a personal Drool-volcano. It would not kill anyone, but it would be enormously spectacular, and safe too boot. Unless some idiot sailor is cleaning his hull ontop of it as it goes (nice fumaroles to kill sea-gunk).

    • This has been going on for a long time. The place is dotted with active faults, nothing directly related to volcanism on Faial.

  2. Concerning dead zone. I was thinking about it, if cracking never occurs in areas which are warm, this means we can rule out a Laki eruption, and possibly one occuring exactly at Veidivotn. It would seem more likely to have the next major fissure eruption somewhere else.

    I think north of Bardarbunga is one good candidate, as is north of Askja.

    In the dead zone, perhaps the most likely spot to crack is to the north or to the south of Veidivotn (Veidivotn is still quite recent, and therefore warm), perhaps closer to Hamarinn or Skkrokalda, or if to the south, perhaps close to Langisjór.

    • But I think we will only see earthquake swarms on these spots, before a proper eruption. When they crack, they will crack for good!

    • Nono, you are taking it a bit to far.
      Veidivötn is a rather wide zone of fissures, aka a fissure swarm. What I meant was that it will not erupt at exactly the same spot again, but a few km away would be fair game.
      Laki for instance was actually 3 eruptions happening sequentialy a couple of km to the east for each eruption. Imagine then what happens if you have more time for cooling. Veidivötn could probably have a rifting eruption just a km or two away from the last spot.

      • I agree, but “minor” ones do happen in between, but then what is definition of a Laki event. Had look at area in Google Earth and counted about 13 fissure rows, in this general area. Many older ones are likely covered by lava from younger ones, but has there been study into if there is pattern visible in them? I mean how far from each other they occurr (with frequency of 241 years, that whould make 33 events since last Ice-age ~ 7,500 years) or presumably some happen on old fissures? * simple math *

        • The situation is a bit like having pages 342-3 of a seven hundred pages thick novel by an author you have never read before and trying to predict what the third paragraph on page 344 is going to say using which number of words, sentences and lines? Will there be fissure eruptions of the Eldgja, Veidivatn and Laki type in the future? Yes. But where? And when? What will the run-up to such an event be like? What are the earliest signs that one may be brewing and how far ahead of the actual event?

          • 🙂 Last time I was just about do some reading on Laki (Anno 1783), an 3+ and an 4+ quakes happened, geologically speaking under my house. I am starting reading, having read many revues, but not the actual book. Wonder if the movie will be better? 😉

        • Last Laki-event produced 3 different Laki fissures. To really top it off the lavas are different in all 3 of them. Weird.

          • Laki events are weird. And Grímsvötn co-erupted in same period! Horrible really. I can not imagine the impact the next one will make.

          • I would not like to be in Iceland when it does happen next time.
            And normally I am up for most things volcanic.

          • I guess to reach those M3 and M4 events we will need quite a run up. If we are watching now some M1 every other week in Veidivotn, I think there will be at least several years (if not decades) until the next fissure episode. And it can be minor like in 1862 or larger as in 1783. But I am no expert on this, and surprises can happen.

            We should also not forget the fissures to the north of Vatnajokull. Its also a dead zone there. Also large eruptions, and a non-seismic zone.

            Plus, another dead zone is north of Hengill.

          • Thing is that if this is pre-quakes we could have a fast brutal run-up like Laki seemed to have. If memory serves there was rather stunning amounts of quakes for a few days before the eruption started. So, I would say we are anywhere from months to decades away.

  3. Etna has stopped emitting gases so what she’s really up to and when she’ll bother inform us is anybody’s guess. I guess we were a few more days away from Dr Behncke’s usual heads up than Carl and myself thought only the other day. :mrgreen:

    • You are welcome!
      And I must admit that you have a nice blog.
      And by the way, I could not stop from recognising that you have a fairly Swedish name, a fellow swede?

        • Yepp I did, but I did not enter it, I think that should be left for your regulars.
          Congratulation on your blogiversary.

  4. Detailed report from Antonio Gonzales Ramos posted on

    ,,One of the ULPGC/Qstar team members, Mr. Antonio Gonzales Ramos, is giving more details of what they have noticed on their recent Atlantic Explorer trip (the one Julio del Castillo Vivero joined) in the AVCAN website.
    * Activity and colored waters were alternated with periods of no activity (activity during the morning hours and no activity in the afternoon)
    * This activity was also reflected in the PH which was 7 during the morning and 7.5 during the afternoon. The normal Ph in the Ocean is higher than 8.2. This slightly acidic Ph is caused by the CO2 in the water
    * The green color of the water was due to complex metallic chemicals (oxides)
    * Ashes were found in the surface waters as well as in the sampling at a depth of 50 meter
    * The column of CO2 and ashes in the water are the main reason that small fish are not surviving when they pass in this acidic streaming. This explains also the seagulls eating these killed fish above the vent. In ER terms this means that when the images of Joke are showing seagulls above the main vent, that the water has probably a lower Ph in that area.
    * Mr. Gonzales also indicates that the seagulls are the first ones to see a coloring of the gas emission points. As they know that this color means “food”, they immediately are hanging around.
    This content is translated by ER from the original comment in the Avcan site,,

        • Links are nice, but occasionally quite cumbersome. If you don’t link, noting the site and how to find the article (likely with a time stamp) suffices.

          At least in my line of thinking. Others may disagree… which is their prerogative, provided they don’t then lobby the legislative branch and have a law passed that forces me to follow their twisted idea of reality…

          • If I see something of interest. I hold down Left on mouse and highlight the word or thing Iof interest in blue. Then a right click asks me if I want to “Search google for interesting thing”. Maybe this is just a Google Chrome thing but it is very useful and will take me straight to the site I want, or choice of sites.
            So for me a link is not essential. However links are useful to indicate where information has come from and it is easier to copy the link address in the web browser search window then paste it into your comment, than type sometimes cumbersome www, thingys. each to their own………
            @ Lurking… My reality is very twisted……Cats digging up seed beds…..Slugs and snails attacking my seedlings……..I love animals and hate to hurt anything…….
            Another rumination in my car yesterday……What do Buddhists Monks do with voracious molluscs that are destroying their food plants?

      • Nice start, if it continous like this it will be a VEI-1 in a week or so.
        Should we say 1000 meter of ash column?

        • Good summation Carl, not much of an eruption for “The Most Dangerous Volcano In The World” is it?

          Bruce, I doubt it. If Popocatetepl really is in a dome-building phase it won’t be much more of an eryuption than this. Then another dome will be emplaced to be shattered etc. Of course it could just be clearing its throat before the eruption proper begins, but judging from its recent history I doubt Popo will do anything spectacular. We’ll see. 😉

          Luis, let’s hope that time lapse continues a bit as it seems to cut off just after the eruption proper began.

          • The thing with all these “the most dangerous volcano” is that they are that only in one aspect. Popocatepetl is actually a rather small and well-behaved one, as long one stays out of a couple of valleys while it erupts.

          • “the most dangerous volcano” is actually whichever one kills you… or the one that no one saw. The one that snuck up in the middle of the night and enveloped you in tephra and then faded off into the darkness.

  5. earthquake2012-05-02 16:31:15.0
    1hr 03min ago 38.03 N 14.62 E 20 ML 2.4 SICILY, ITALY 2012-05-02 17:04
    earthquake2012-05-02 16:28:14.0
    1hr 06min ago 38.02 N 14.62 E 20 ML 2.4 SICILY, ITALY

  6. Apologies if anyone has alluded to it already, but this third super volcano of Carl’s near to Naples.. Could it by any chance be the massive submarine volcano Marsili?? 😉

    • Renato (?) has already said it’s Ischia in one of the first replies to this topic – Vesuvius (max VEI 6), Campi Flegrei (max VEI 7) and Ischia (max VEI ?). If a fourth is to be added, it ought to be Roccamonfina, ~50 km from Naples, which albeit considered “extinct” by some had a caldera-forming VEI 6 (5½ x 6½ km) eruption as late as 385 kY ago.

  7. May 2, 2012 — A plume of volcanic smoke is seen rising from
    the appropriately-named Mount Asphyxia volcano, located on Zavodovski
    Island in the southern Atlantic. The image was acquired on April 27 by
    NASA’s Aqua satellite.

    You have to love the name.

    Zavodovski is part of the South Sandwich Islands, a group of 11
    British-owned islands located 217 miles southeast of South Georgia, off
    the tip of South America. Only 3.1 miles wide, the icy island is
    dominated by the 1,800-foot-high stratovolcano.

    Aptly named, the sulphuric fumes from Asphyxia coupled with the
    stench of penguin droppings — the island is a breeding ground for
    millions of chinstrap penguins — can be suffocating for human visitors.

    The plume is seen here snaking into upper-level winds where it takes a
    turn to the northwest. The other islands exhibit swirling cloud
    vortices on their lee sides, created by their disturbance of prevailing

    • According to GVP and other sources Savadovskis volcano is not named Mount Asphyxia. It is named Mount Curry.
      It has probably erupted quite often after 1819, but since it is one of the least visited places of the planet, especially after the large sailing ships stoped passing by, it could more or less have erupted for a hundred years non-stop without anyone noticing.

  8. Turrialba seems to have livened up this afternoon while I was replenishing the coffee supplies:

  9. Subj: Idjits

    Many people in various educational programs latch on to technology and try to incorporate that into their field of study. Some will write PERL server side scripting that processes CGI calls, others will do it in PHP or JAVA, and unload part of the processing to the client. Still others will craft elaborate Visual Basic or Visual C/C++/C# (whatever MS’s flavor of the month is) and devote countless hours to the task of showing just how wizzbang their knowledge and implementation of a subject it.

    Here is a clue. If your application, applet or whatever you write, REQUIRES ME TO CIRCUMVENT THE SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS THAT I HAVE PUT IN PLACE TO SECURE MY SYSTEM… they your application, no matter how many hours you have put into it… is a piece of shit,

    No ifs, not ands, no buts. TOTAL CRAP

    And that is my opinion of

    I will not take down my HARDWARE FIREWALL, and I will not build a disposable system to place outside of it, or restructure my network set-up just to run your application… which seems to be a rather nice one that could (if it were implemented with any mind of use friendliness) circumvent hours upon hours of tedious work.

    You know, appeal to the masses sort of thing.

    But no… can’t do that. You have to hide behind your fake air of technical superiority.

    Here’s a hint. PERL has gone the way of Fortran. Still there, but not widely used. Just so you know, I have written a few thousand lines of PERL myself, and it IS NOT intended as a distributional programing package. There are far too many security hoops to jump though to meet all the requirements of the various OSs that are out there. “But it runs on a Mac” – Big friken deal. The current Mac OS is just an incarnation of BSD Unix. No great accomplishment there. I’d run it in Linux since I have a Linux server sitting here, but I don’t run the GUI since in my opinion, a SERVER is a SERVER. The GUI is just graphical overhead. Wasted cycles.

    That’s why most places that write applets, use either PHP for server sides stuff, or JAVA/Javascript for client side stuff…. and if they are respectable do not have the arrogance to tell the client to take down their firewall. Kiss my ass. Ain’t gonna happen. What? You need a raw port to get to the server? Pick one and tell the client/user you need a hole opened up for that traffic and give me a port number. If you can’t push your data through a specific port that you have set on the server and client application, you are an idiot and should not be trying to impress your professor at your wizardry… because you aren’t really that bright.

    Don’t like it? Bite my ass.

    • I just hope that at least one of them is a volcanoholic…
      That was a grade A verbal wedgie.

      For those that do not have english as native language, or for some reason have missed what a wedgie is.
      Put your right arm behind you, grab the top of your underwear, pull upwards with all your might. Works best if you are a guy.
      Oh, did I forget to tell? It hurts…

  10. After not sleeping much and thinking about this all night could I ask a question without being pulled to pieces.
    Could the possibility of the erruption in Mexico affect the Rivera Maya where we are due to go in 10 days . I know its miles away but if it errupts fully what about an ash cloud etc.
    I have to laugh to myself (well its better than crying) dont think my situation can get any worse .

  11. Hey Judith.. I looked it up and the distance between Popo and the Riviera Maya is about 800 miles. If you are flying to an Airport on the Mayan peninsula there will probably be no problem.. To put it in perspective, Eyaf eruption was really a “normal” Volcanic eruption that affected world Air travel, This was due to an unusual set of weather conditions Airlines have learned much fom that experience.
    I could be wrong but I don’t think Popo’s eruption will make any difference to your travel and stay.

    Here is an interesting link about Mexican Volcanoes and other stuff…..

    Judith try not to be so anxious. You will only make yourself miserable. Live for each day. Each day brings a new experience. Sometimes not good but Hey! You are going to an exciting place. I always wanted to see the Mayan temples….You are lucky…..I can no longer fly to such places… hence I Travel round the world on my PC….It’s wonderful 😀
    I Remember what my Grandmother always told me when I fell down and hurt myself. ” Does it Hurt?”……”Yes!” I would cry
    “Then you are not dead”. She would say, smiling.
    It used to really irritate me and took a while for me to understand the very positive thinking behind this simple statement… but she was so right :D:D

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