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It is not yet clear what this means for the volcano’s future, but the relatively low amount of seismic activity in the area in the last three decades suggests pressure is building within the caldera.
“What this means in terms of the scale of any future eruption we cannot say, but there is no doubt that the volcano is becoming more dangerous,” Dr De Siena said.
“Whatever produced the activity under Pozzuoli in the 1980s has migrated somewhere else, so the danger doesn’t just lie in the same spot, it could now be much nearer to Naples which is more densely populated.” Dr De Siena described Campi Flegrei, which translates as “burning fields”, as being like “a boiling pot of soup beneath the surface”.
The volcano’s most famous eruption, the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, occurred around 39,000 years ago and spewed molten rock around 70km into the stratosphere.
A highly viscous (thick and slow-moving) magma is more likely to explode violently than a fluid magma.
When magma rises to the surface, the water becomes bubbles and this increases the pressure.
'We have presented evidence to solve this mystery,' says Di Genova.
An eruption will occur when the pressure of molten rock causes the ground to stretch to breaking point, which would be catastrophic for the 1.5 million people living in the Naples region.
“During the last 30 years the behaviour of the volcano has changed, with everything becoming hotter due to fluids permeating the entire caldera,” Dr De Siena explained.
This eruption was the largest Europe has seen in the last 200,000 years, and may have played a part in the extinction of the neanderthals.
In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the ancient city of Pompeii beneath several tonnes of molten lava and hot ash.