BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 19:11 GMT
Massive magma layer feeds Vesuvius
Mt Vesuvius, Paolo Gasparini
The last major eruption was in 1944
Image: Paolo Gasparini

Ivan Noble

Italian and French researchers have discovered a massive layer of magma eight kilometres (five miles) below Mount Vesuvius, the Italian volcano which last underwent a major eruption in 1944.

The layer is much bigger than they expected and appears to stretch beneath Vesuvius and neighbouring volcanoes such as the Phlegraean Fields close to Naples itself.

Paolo Gasparini of the University of Naples Federico II told BBC News Online that he and his colleagues had taken a snapshot of the situation under the mountain.

The snapshot does not provide any indication of what will happen beneath Vesuvius in the future, but it does point to a zone which should be monitored for seismic clues.

Seismic survey

"There is a huge amount of available magma under Vesuvius," he said.

"It was really unexpected for the reservoir to be that size."

Dr Gasparini is part of a European team which carried out surveys of the rock beneath Vesuvius in 1996 and 1997.

"We collected a huge amount of data. There has been very extensive work processing the data and interpreting it," he said.

The team detonated several tonnes of explosives in over a dozen locations around the mountain and measured the shock waves from the explosions after they passed beneath the volcano.

They also let off hundreds of shots from guns aboard a ship in the Bay of Naples.

The layer they found beneath Vesuvius stretches across 400 square kilometres (154 square miles), but they were unable to tell how thick it is.

But they are now carrying out more surveys to find out exactly how far it stretches beneath other volcanoes.

The research is published in the journal Science.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Azeri mud volcano flares
25 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Volcano disaster warning
07 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Philippine crater lake
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories