12 October 2023
West of Naples, Italy there’s an area called Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean Fields) that contains the remains of a ruptured supervolcano. It has erupted many times over the past 315,000 years including an eruption 40,000 years ago that produced a huge ash cloud and may have driven the Neanderthals to extinction.
The region around the Gulf of Naples is very volcanic. There are vents at Solfatara in Pozzuoli where sulfurous steam emerges in an old crater. Pompeii and Vesuvius are across the Gulf.
Nonetheless it’s a lovely place to live by the Mediterranean. Towns, including Pozzuoli, Agnano and Bacoli, dot the crater edges and the flats between them. The area’s population is 500,000.
This slideshow of maps shows the towns among the remnants of the supervolcano.
In June 2023 scientists determined that there is a potential for rupture before an eruption at Campi Flegrei caldera, Southern Italy. (uh oh!)
In September the magma under Campi Flegrei began shifting again and caused more than 1,100 earthquakes in a month, some as strong as 4.0 and 4.2 on the Richter scale. The Guardian reported on 3 October: “The Italian government is planning for a possible mass evacuation of tens of thousands of people who live around the Campi Flegrei supervolcano near Naples.”
Years ago I learned that birds can sense when an earthquake is coming and they take flight before it hits. I suspect that the birds at Campi Flegrei are flying more than usual lately.
Read more about birds and earthquakes in this vintage article from 2016.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons, click on the captions to see the originals. Map credits: colorful relief map from Wikimedia, Fig. 1 map: Unrest at Campi Flegrei since 1950 from Potential for rupture before eruption at Campi Flegrei caldera, Southern Italy published June 2023 at Nature.com, Google map of the area with terrain)