Activity Spotted In Europe’s Largest Volcano; Will Its Eruption Cause Mass Extinction?

About 200,000 years ago, Europe witnessed the largest ever volcanic eruption that formed the Campi Flegrei caldera (a large volcanic crater formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano). This had set off a volcanic winter because of the sheer amount of ash spewed into the atmosphere by the eruption. A volcanic winter is basically a reduction in global temperatures caused by volcanic ash and droplets of sulfuric acid, obscuring the Sun and raising Earth’s albedo.

The Campi Flegrei in Italy (via Wired)
The Campi Flegrei in Italy (via Wired)

The volcano erupted again about 40,000 years ago. This eruption led to the demise of most of the population of European Neanderthals. It was believed to be a super-massive volcanic eruption, the scale of which has never been witnessed before. It looks like the volcano may erupt again and cause some serious trouble. Researchers from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Bologna, Italy have been monitoring the 8-mile wide region that caused the massive crater. The Campi Flegrei crater lies beneath the Bay of Naples in Italy. The researchers have spotted signs of activities that could hint at the volcano erupting again. The observations have been published in the Nature Communications. Following the spotting of activity, Italian government has raised the volcano’s threat level from green to yellow, calling for uninterrupted monitoring of changes in volcano’s behavior.

The Consequences Of Super-volcano Eruption

If the volcano erupts, it could set off an explosion that’s nearly thousand times more powerful than Mount Helen’s 1980 eruption. There’s high possibility of the eruption causing what’s being described as “nuclear winter”. Nuclear winter is the term for a theory describing the climate effects of nuclear war, where smoke from the fires started by nuclear weapons, especially the black, sooty smoke from cities and industrial facilities would be heated by the Sun and spread globally. This phenomenon generally lasts for years.

Volcanologist Oded Navon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says – “If it does erupt, it certainly could be a very serious matter. It isn’t a volcano, it’s a super-volcano”. An eruption on the scale of the one that happened 40,000 years ago, if it were to happen today, will be catastrophic. Thousands of lives are at risk. The massive amounts of magma thrown out by the super-massive volcano can cover large areas of southern Italy. Worse, the eruption could trigger changes in global weather, lasting for years together.