Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Vesuvius before the 1631 eruption



of which a printed transcription will shortly be published [Guidoboni, 2006], provided new data concerning the activity of Vesuvius 60 years prior to its last great eruption, on 16 December 1631. This activity, which had until now been unknown to modern science, calls for a re-evaluation of the current conditions of the volcano and of possible precursors to the next major eruption.

Vesuvius is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world: Its activity can affect an area comprising 18 municipalities that are inhabited by more than 700,000 people in an area less than eight kilometers away from the volcano vent. The volcano has been dormant since 1944, but the history of Vesuvius has been punctuated by violent and destructive, albeit infrequent, Plinian-type explosive eruptions, during which material is continuously ejected at a high velocity and at a great height (up to a few tens of kilometers) from the vent, forming a typical eruptive column with an umbrella cloud. In the past 3500 years, in between one Plinian eruption and the following one, several minor eruptive events have taken place, ranging from subplinian eruptions to more or less violent Strombolian activity and lava flow emissions.