Mt Vesuvius stands tall as one of the world’s most iconic volcanoes, being remembered far and wide as the one responsible for burying the nearby city of Pompeii in 79 AD. It is situated just east of Naples on the Italian Peninsula and still poses a threat to thousands of people in the area. But, how far is this menacing peak from Pompeii?
In reality, the two locations are closer than you might think. According to a report published by the Earth Science Department of the University of Naples, Mt Vesuvius is approximately 17km away from Pompeii. The study went on to explain that this distance can, however, fluctuate depending on the source due to the imprecise nature of data collected pre-scientists. For example, the US Geological Survey (USGS) suggests that the two landmarks are as much as 22km apart.
Despite the name, Mt Vesuvius is actually not the highest peak in the area. The highest peak is actually Monte Somma, which stands at 1,195m and boundaries the inner side of the crater of the volcano. Located just above Pompeii and Herculaneum, the volcano is located to the north east of Naples and has become an important part of the stunning view of the tourism industry in the area.
Although Mt Vesuvius is currently dormant and therefore believed to be largely safe, its long history of destructive eruptions constitutes an ever-present danger. While the volcano predominantly produces ash and small lava fragments down its cone, recent activity has seen the flow spew out huge chunks of solidified magna, the likes of which buried Pompeii in 79 AD. This makes Mt Vesuvius a very dangerous neighbour for nearby settlements.
Inhabitants of Pompeii were not so much worried about the distance between them and the volcano, but rather the threatening presence it posed if it were to become active again. As Professor Daniella D’Arrigo of Sapienza University of Rome explains, “Volcanoes are dynamic and always changing, which makes predicting eruptions incredibly difficult.” He went on to add that, “Although Mt Vesuvius has been dormant since the early-mid twentieth century, the potential risk is still there.”
Family Evacuation Strategy
Naturally, with such an active history, Mt Vesuvius has been under a lot of rigorous monitoring by both the Italian and European Authorities. A family evacuation strategy has been put into place should such an event (a potential eruption) occur. The plan mostly consists of a series of frequent drills with the key agenda being to ensure the safety of the incomers and residents in the area surrounding Mt Vesuvius.
Experience shows that frequent check-ups are more effective than relief aid for the affected populations. One example of this is the Japanese 2013 eruption of Mount Bootleg, which saw 6,000 citizens evacuated from the area in less than an hour. A similar strategy has also been adopted by officials in the range of Mt Vesuvius thereby ensuring a safe environment for the population.
At 17km, Mt Vesuvius is a relatively close neighbour to Pompeii and the surrounding archeological sites. Its long history of destructive eruptions has constituted an ever-present danger. To tackle the unpredictable volcanic activity, the Italian government has implemented several safety measures and evacuation strategies to ensure the safety of the people in the region.
Risk of Volcanic Eruptions
Volcanic eruptions can cause severe destruction and chaos, and it is therefore essential to be aware of the potential and associated risk. Facts provided by the USGS have found that volcanic eruptions have been responsible for up to thirty-five percent of the deaths caused by natural disasters in the past few centuries. Such persisting threats make it even more important to remain aware of the scale of the danger and take necessary precautions.
Whilst some worry about Pompeii and its inhabitants, others are concerned about the more wide-reaching effects. Stephen Keller, a geologist at the US Geological Survey, was quoted stating that, “The risk of an eruption is something that should be taken seriously, as the consequences can not only affect the affected population but could also cause immense damage and disruption to other parts of the globe.”
Long Term Effects
An eruptive event can have long term consequences that include the landscape changing in shape, displacement of populations and the destruction of ancient habitation sites. According to the Pompeii Forum, the region’s archaeological potential and history have provided the world with an invaluable insight into the past. Therefore, it is paramount that nearby inhabitants and workers follow their safety precautions at all times.
Volcanologist and disaster risk demonstrator, J.P Williams of Massey University, warns us that “Volcanoes do not give prior warning before an eruption and due to the unpredictable nature of these events, it is important that we remain prepared at all times.” He also suggests that regular checkups of the area, in addition to a sufficient emergency plan, are necessary, to avoid the consequences of a volcanic eruption.
One of the most common associated risks with volcanic eruptions is that of volcanic gases. These consist of a range of harmful substances, some of which have been linked to acid rain and destruction of marine life, and some have even been linked to long-term health conditions. However, any expected release of large amounts of gases is mitigated by sophisticated monitoring systems and networks set up around Mt Vesuvius.
Ludwig Ashford, a professor of Geology at Stanford University, put this in perspective saying: “Volcanic gases are incredibly dangerous as they are invisible and can be extremely toxic. Although the feared large-scale releases of these substances appears to be unlikely, we must remain vigilant.” He went on to add “Continuing monitoring allows us to learn more about these processes, and will ultimately help us to better protect our people and our environment.”
Volcanic Monitoring Techniques
Due to the potential danger of a potential volcanic eruption, a set of sophisticated monitoring systems have been implemented around Mt Vesuvius in order to measure any changes in the volcano’s seismic and geothermal activity. This includes the collection of data on underground movements which allows the assessment of rock fracture, seismic and ground deformation.
In addition to this, long-term data collection is used to observe any evidence of potential fluid movements in nearby water bodies. This allows profound analysis of the seismic activities, in addition to its link to ground deformation. This data is then used by volcanologists, geologists and governmental officials to prepare for any possible volcanic eruption in the nearby Pompeii area.
With so much science, technology and resources mobilised to ensure the safety of the area, Mt Vesuvius continues to be vigilant and monitored on a regular basis. In the meantime, the land of Naples, home of the infamous Mount Vesuvius, will remain ever so beautiful and most importantly, safe.