Two Major Volcanic Eruptions Threaten Europe, And There’s Another Hiding In Plain Sight


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Two significant areas of volcanic activity in Europe came to life in late October, but neither pose as big of a threat as another … which is hiding in plain sight.

Italy’s Mount Etna roared to life Sunday, shooting a lava fountain some 14,700 feet into the air over the island of Sicily, NewsNation reported. Footage of the event was shared on social media, showing huge plumes of molten rock filling the sky.

Ash and cloud systems created through the eruption posed a threat to the city of Catania, situated on Sicily’s coast. The Catania airport often has to shut down when eruptions start, as aircrafts can be heavily damaged by flying through ash clouds (though this didn’t stop one of my pilots from doing so in the early 2010s).

While there’s no serious fear regarding Mt. Etna’s latest eruption, things are getting more explosive at the site. Almost a decade ago, a local geologist explained to me that Mt. Etna used to be more like the volcanoes in Hawaii, just bubbling away without any major activity. But in recent years, the chemical composition of the magma under the volcano has evolved to become more explosive, and we don’t know what that could mean for the future.

Northwest of Sicily by some miles, the island nation of Iceland is also bracing for an impending volcanic eruption. Earthquake swarms hit the town of Grindavik as a 10-mile-long magma tunnel forms beneath the region, prompting the evacuation of nearly 4,000 people.

Icelandic authorities are building a defensive wall around a geothermal power plant in hopes of protecting it against the impending eruption, according to Al Jazeera. Back in April 2010, a mega eruption in Iceland forced more than 100,000 flights to be canceled over the course of eight days in Europe due to the dense ash cloud, EuroNews reported. So, let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.

But it’s another Italian volcanic system which poses the biggest threat to the continent. The Campi Flegrei caldera in Southern Italy has been gradually waking up since over the last 70 or so years, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

This volcano is roughly seven to 10 miles across, and it’s the largest active caldera in Europe. Though it is partially submerged beneath the Bay of Pozzuoli, more than 360,000 people live on top of it. (RELATED: World’s Newest Island Rises From The Ocean)

Intervals between major eruptions have been as low as decades to a few centuries. And if this thing goes bang while you’re alive, it has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it. Aside from the initial blast, ash clouds from Campi Flegrei could wipe out crops globally, and plunge the world into a volcanic winter.