Italian scientists want to drill the Caldera Campi-Flegrei

The Caldera of Campi Flegrei, covering a large part of the Gulf of Naples and the coastal areas near Naples, is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Europe. In the past ash from its eruptions have reached Siberia, and now she carries a big threat to the region’s population of over 1 million people.

To penetrate into the bowels of the volcano, in 2008, scientists attempted to drill wells in Flegra, but then their work was stopped. However, many Italian experts hope that will allow them to continue drilling, and I think such action is absolutely safe for local residents.

Pilot bore drilled to a depth of about 0.5 km near the closed metallurgical plant off the coast of the Gulf of Naples. Her innards are fiber optic cables connected to instruments for measuring temperature, pressure, and seismic activity. Well on top of a metal hatch with a large black valve to close the opening in case of emergency.

Every week in this place comes Stefano Carlino, a volcanologist from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), which monitors the status of the well and performance of the sensors. In 2008, he teamed up with another specialist – Christopher Kilburn – raised the idea to drill hole in the Caldera to a depth of about 3.5 km, to retrieve rock samples and install thermometers, seismometers and strain gauges at great depths.

The Caldera of Campi Flegrei, covering a large part of the Gulf of Naples and the coastal areas near Naples, is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Europe. In the past ash from its eruptions have reached Siberia, and now she carries a big threat to the region’s population of over 1 million people.

To penetrate into the bowels of the volcano, in 2008, scientists attempted to drill wells in Flegra, but then their work was stopped. However, many Italian experts hope that will allow them to continue drilling, and I think such action is absolutely safe for local residents.

Pilot bore drilled to a depth of about 0.5 km near the closed metallurgical plant off the coast of the Gulf of Naples. Her innards are fiber optic cables connected to instruments for measuring temperature, pressure, and seismic activity. Well on top of a metal hatch with a large black valve to close the opening in case of emergency.

Every week in this place comes Stefano Carlino, a volcanologist from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), which monitors the status of the well and performance of the sensors. In 2008, he teamed up with another specialist – Christopher Kilburn – raised the idea to drill hole in the Caldera to a depth of about 3.5 km, to retrieve rock samples and install thermometers, seismometers and strain gauges at great depths.

Deep drilling is technically challenging and extremely expensive. At that time, as the space probe Voyager 1 hurtles through interstellar space, overcoming the distance of 20 billion km from Earth, people still can not penetrate into the depths of our own planet more than 12,262 km. the Last record on drilling, established in 1990 in Murmansk region, still not beaten. Two decades, geologists of the Soviet Union tried to break through the crust, but was forced to stop drilling after a collision with extremely high temperatures up to 180 °C.

At the moment the deep drilling on Earth is the Japanese drilling vessel Chikyu”, which in 2012 made a hole in the ocean to a depth of 2 km, thereby setting a record for the deepest underwater wells. A team of scientists hopes that by 2020 years will reach the mantle, but logistical difficulties and the projected costs by more than $ 1 billion are forced to question their intentions.

As for the Caldera Campi-Flegrei, 6 October 2010 (less than a year after approval of the project by drilling) daily Neapolitan newspaper Il Mattino published an article on the first page under the heading “If you touch the volcano, Naples is going to explode”. In its submission, the journalists relied on the claim Benedetto De vivo, Professor at the Federico II University in Naples, who warned that the deep drilling at Campi Flegrei can cause explosion, earthquake or even volcanic eruption. To the outrage of local residents, the then mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino issued a decree on the cessation of drilling, citing the need to review the project for safety purposes.

De vivo today considers this idea dangerous and brings huge risks for the population. In his opinion, the drilling may lead to hydrothermal explosions (if drilling equipment will encounter a superheated liquid under the ground) and theoretically able to cause a catastrophic chain reaction with a reduced pressure, and magmatic eruption. As De vivo says, the likelihood of this scenario is low, however, in the area where there are at least 1 million people, you should count even the minimal risks.

The Caldera of Campi Flegrei not like normal stratovolcanoes. It is more insidious than the same Vesuvius, because it has not one obvious crater, and is a huge magmatic hearth, which feeds a large number of cinder cones, craters and fumaroles. In its modern history, the volcano has produced two powerful eruptions is about 15 000 and 39, 000 years ago. Both of them not just devastated the region and led to global climate change. The last time the Caldera erupted in 1538. Then its activities were not as catastrophic, but enough to form a new volcano, called Monte Nuovo.

For a long time Campi-Flegrei remained calm, however, from 1982 to 1984, located on the territory of the city of Pozzuoli was plunged into panic. The soil in some places it has risen almost 2 meters, which forced the evacuation of about 36,000 people. Many of them never returned to their homes. In that period, scientists have witnessed such an uplift, which has never been seen in modern history Campi-Flegrei.

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Experts still cannot understand what led to the deformation of the soil is heated by magma, the water in the hydrothermal system and magma. However, some Italian experts believe that the drilling still needs to be done, and hope for its renewal. Co-author Christopher Kilburn, Director of the Aon Benfield Hazard centre at University College, London, has been studying the Phlegraean fields for three decades. In his opinion, to really understand what is happening in the depths of the Caldera, scientists need to penetrate into the ground.

Thomas Weisberg, the representative of the International program of Continental Scientific drilling, says more bluntly: “We need to drill. We need to get into those subterranean regions where volcanic processes”. Agrees with him, Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, a volcanologist of the Vesuvius Observatory who has spent a quarter century studying the mechanisms of past eruptions of Campi Flegrei.

About a year later after the drilling project has been suspended, the new mayor De Magistris again gave the project the green light. But by the time funding and equipment for the drilling work was distributed to other research projects. To complete the drilling to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, it is necessary to find about $ 8 million to make sure that the next time the local population would be on his side.

“I think gradually, in the popular consciousness wakes up to the idea that the project is not as threatening as previously thought,” says Christopher Kilburn. If there are funds on further drilling, the Neapolitans will have to decide which research philosophy to follow – bright discoveries, the proposed Kilburn and Stefano Carlino, or precautionary such professionals like Benedetto De vivo.

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