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Europe’s Biggest ‘Supervolcano’ Nearing Possible Eruption, Experts Warn

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Europe's largest "supervolcano" might be inching closer to its breaking point, prompting experts to warn that an eruption for the first time since 1538 could be coming sooner than later.
The zone is already a very famous one for its volcanic activity (hint, hint: remember Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD?). We're talking about the Naples area, and more specifically, the city of Pozzuoli and its Campi Flegrei volcano, located roughly a half-hour drive away from Naples.

According to a new study at University College London published in Nature, the Campi Flegrei volcano, which has long been in a slumber state, has recently been found to have a weakening crust, which means that its eruption is more likely. While an imminent eruption is (luckily!) not at all guaranteed, if the volcano was to match the intensity of its last eruption centuries ago, the whole world would immediately experience the dreadful consequences.

The predictions based on the volcano's last eruption see molten rocks and gasses shot up into the stratosphere, 100-feet-high tsunamis, and a thick plume of sulfur and toxic ash covering the earth. The result? In addition to many possible casualties in the volcano's radius, the planet would experience a worldwide global winter that would last years, which would not only kill crops but also cause mass extinctions of some species, Space.com reports.

Before you get goosebumps, let's look at the good news. According to study lead-author Christopher Kilburn, a professor of earth science at University College London, "this does not mean an eruption is guaranteed," he said in a statement. "The rupture may open a crack through the crust, but the magma still needs to be pushing up at the right location for an eruption to occur."

Additionally, this is not the first time in recent years that the Campi Flegrei volcano has "stirred the pot." According to official records, the volcano reported heightened activity in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s, with the latest unrest phase (which is still ongoing) beginning in the last 10 years. Despite this, the volcano hasn't erupted yet, and it has only pushed the ground below the town of Pozzuoli upwards of 13 feet since the 1950s due to the increase in pressure from below. In order to understand this better, it is important to note that rather than a mountain-like volcano, Campi Flegrei looks more like a depression, featuring 24 mostly hidden craters.

What is instead happening, for now, is that the volcano is experiencing consistent small earthquakes. In April, for example, it counted more than 600, which was a brand-new record for the region.

However, while the seismic activity combined with the ground uplift do suggest that the crust is, in fact, breaking—which means that the volcano is getting closer to eruption—scientists said that the next eruption isn't necessarily going to be as massive and deleterious as the previous one. According to experts, in order for a volcano to properly blow up, gasses must build up very quickly before they get a chance to escape, which would increase the pressure below the surface. Additionally, magma would also need to find channels to move swiftly through the crust the moment a crack is formed.

As for now, everybody can take a deep breath and relax. According to scientists, given the conditions of the volcano and the data analyzed, Campi Flegrei's potential eruption is much more likely to be small rather than large, which would only interest the area surrounding it. With the tools available, it is fair to assume that nearby towns and cities could potentially be evacuated in time.Want more Thrillist?

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