An international team of researchers led by The Ohio State University has discovered a series of large seafloor deposits near Italy that may have formed as a result of ancient volcanic eruptions.
The sediments, known as giant deposits, were discovered in the Tarana Sea region of the Mediterranean, which is sandwiched between the west coast of the Italian peninsula and the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily.
After combining geophysical data obtained from the Spanish research project with sediment core data collected at a nearby ocean drilling program site, the scientists found that three deposits were composed of alternating layers of sand and volcanic clay, while the fourth deposit was volcanic. Mudslides are more violent.
fifty thousand years ago
The findings, published in the journal Geology, suggest the structures were deposited during a turbulent period when the supervolcanic eruption region near Naples was active about 50,000 years ago.
The study’s lead author, Derek Sawyer, an associate professor of geosciences at The Ohio State University, said volcanic activity in the area remains active and could pose significant dangers in the future, adding that the discovery of this previously unknown area is important for understanding and measuring the impact of such recurring geohazards is crucial.
As the press release points out, the eruptions of these supervolcanoes are extremely violent events that have profound consequences for the planet and have influenced its climate and ecosystems, as well as human migration and geology for much of its history.
Because of the large amount of dust and ash that remains on the ground and ends up in the ocean, Sawyer and his team were able to distinguish the age and composition of the four sediments. They also identified the origin of small marine microorganisms known as benthic microbes. Foraminifera were found in these sediments and their exact origin was determined to be in ancient volcanic areas.
Risk of explosion
Recent volcanic and hydrothermal activity in the Mediterranean has scientists concerned whether the Masili seamount in the same area, 3,500 meters above the seafloor, could soon erupt.
“This area of Italy where Vesuvius is located remains a very volcanically active area, so it is a known hazard and is constantly monitored,” Sawyer explained. “By doing this in the field of marine geoscience class research, we are working to help understand past volcanic eruption events.” Help build resilient communities with as much information as possible to avoid displacement. ”
As the press release notes, if a volcano erupted in the area today, the movement of massive magma deposits beneath the surface could trigger waves. tsunami It threatens nearby coastal cities and causes a variety of other environmental disasters.
While the study found giant beds appear in the region about every 10 to 15,000 years, Sawyer said scientists must remain vigilant and monitor events that don’t fit those timelines.
Since the last event occurred approximately 2,100 to 3,000 years ago, there is still some uncertainty as to when the next event will occur. “We have to be cautious about these expectations, but more research is needed to be prepared,” Sawyer said.