Vesuvius's big daddy: The supervolcano that threatens all life in Europe

The Campi Flegrei caldera is a supervolcano. While a new eruption here would be more likely to result in the creation of another Vesuvius-like cone, the worst-case scenario could see it obliterating much of life in Europe

Two thousand years ago Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii. Today, a larger, far more deadly supervolcano lurks on the other side of Naples. If it erupts, Campi Flegrei could wipe out all life in Europe. So why are British scientists battling the Italians for the right to poke at it with drilling rods? 


It begins with a swarm of 1,000 small earthquakes that ripple under the pavements of Naples. Air-conditioning units fall from the sides of buildings and tiles slip from the walls. Inside the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology’s control centre, a bank of screens indicates that the quakes aren’t being generated by the giant Mount Vesuvius, which looms over the city....

Pisciarelli, near Pozzuoli – the centre of the caldera

Renato Somma, of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Naples, pushes the Fiat through the gears as we wind our way through the grounds of a hotel and health club built on the side of the Solfatara crater. Once fashionable, the hotel was used by U.S. Naval officers until a rise in the ground of 6ft led to an earthquake that damaged the base, and saw the U.S. Navy relocate 20 miles away from Naples....

Control room, National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Naples

Giuseppe De Natale, the softly spoken volcanologist leading the drilling project, walks along the bank of 60 LCD screens and explains that each one displays a feed from sensors around Campi Flegrei and beyond....

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