July 19, 2016 3:01 pm
Updated: July 19, 2016 3:18 pm

‘Dormant’ volcano near Rome shows signs of waking

The Colli Albani region

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A volcano once believed to be dormant is showing signs of activity near Rome, Italy, scientists report.

Colli Albani, a 15-kilometre semicircle of hills just outside Rome, was believed to be an extinct volcano, as there were no recorded eruptions in human history. However, over the past few years, seismologists have detected steam vents as well as earthquake activity and a rise in ground level.

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Earlier studies had found that, in its history, the volcano erupted with hot ash and fast-moving lava. Further research also suggests that, should the volcano erupt, it could be as destructive as the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the cities of Pomeii and Herculaneum.

The authors of the study, which appeared in American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters, conclude that an eruption from Colli Albani could send ash and smoke over nearby cities. If winds blew in the right direction, it could also affect Rome, which is only 19 km from the region.

But Romans don’t need to panic just yet: the study suggests that an eruption could occur 1,000 years from now.

Scientists began inspecting the region about 20 years ago when they noticed an unusual uprising in the hills (it continues to rise about two millimetres a year). This is usually indicative of a bubble of magma beneath the surface. Then an earthquake swarm (a series of earthquakes that occur close together in timing) rocked Rome between 1991 and 1995. In 2013, a steam vent, known as a fumarole, appeared near Rome’s Fiumicino airport. All signs seemed to point to the awakening of a once-dormant volcano.

Seismologists believe that Colli Albani last erupted about 36,000 years ago and is overdue for another.

H/T: Live Science

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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