Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe, and has produced some of the continent’s largest volcanic eruptions. Located on Italy’s west coast, it overlooks the Bay and City of Naples and sits in the crater of the ancient Somma volcano. Vesuvius is most famous for the 79 AD eruption which destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Though the volcano’s last eruption was in 1944, it still represents a great danger to the cities that surround it, especially the busy metropolis of Naples. pic] Mount Vesuvius: Plate Tectonic Setting Vesuvius is part of the Campanian volcanic arc, a line of volcanoes that formed over a subduction zone created by the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates. This subduction zone stretches the length of the Italian peninsula, and is also the source of other volcanoes like Mount Etna, the Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei), Vulcano, and Stromboli. Under Vesuvius, the lower part of the subducting slab has torn and detached from the upper part to form what is called a “slab window”.
This makes Vesuvius’ rocks slightly different chemically from the rocks erupted from the other Campanian volcanoes. [pic] Mount Vesuvius Geology and Hazards The cone known as Mount Vesuvius began growing in the caldera of the Mount Somma volcano, which last erupted about 17,000 years ago. Most rocks erupted from Vesuvius are andesite, an intermediate volcanic rock (about 53-63% silica). Andesite lava creates explosive eruptions on a variety of scales, which makes Vesuvius an especially dangerous and unpredictable volcano.
Strombolian eruptions (explosions of magma from a pool in the volcano’s conduit) and lava flows from the summit and flank fissures are relatively small. Plinian eruptions (huge explosions that create columns of gas, ash and rock which can rise dozens of kilometers into the atmosphere) have a much greater reach, and have destroyed entire ancient cities near Vesuvius with huge ash falls and pyroclastic flows. Vesuvius is currently quiet, with only minor seismic (earthquake) activity and outgassing from fumaroles in its summit crater, hbut more violent activity could resume in the future.
Mount Vesuvius: Eruption History Mount Vesuvius has experienced eight major eruptions in the last 17,000 years. The 79 AD eruption is one of the most well known ancient eruptions in the world, and may have killed more than 16,000 people. Ash, mud and rocks from this eruption buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pompeii is famous for the casts the hot ash formed around victims of the eruptions. The unfortunate people suffocated on ash in the air, which then covered them and preserved amazing details of their clothing and faces.
Starting in 1631, Vesuvius entered a period of steady volcanic activity, including lava flows and eruptions of ash and mud. Violent eruptions in the late 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s created more fissures, lava flows, and ash-and-gas explosions. These damaged or destroyed many towns around the volcano, and sometimes killed people; the eruption of 1906 had more than 100 casualties. The most recent eruption was in 1944 during World War II. It caused major problems for the newly-arrived Allied forces in Italy when ash and rocks from the eruption destroyed planes and forced evacuations at a nearby airbase. [pic] [pic]