March 30th, 2010
11:32 AM ET

Experts: Undersea volcano may collapse, cause tsunami

These images of the Marsili volcano show magnetic and gravity anomalies, which researchers say increase chances of a collapse.

The walls of the largest underwater volcano in Europe could collapse, releasing thousands of tons of magma, which would trigger a tsunami that would likely inundate southern Italy, experts at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology told CNN.

The Marsili volcano, which has an active magma chamber, also has areas losing magnetism and a large amount of weak and permeable rocks supporting it, which researchers said means that the walls could essentially crumble at any time with the right seismic activity.

And if that happens – the result could be catastrophic.

“Collapses of large portions of submarine volcanic rocks represent a major risk for tsunami generation producing some of the most destructive events,” according to an article co-written by Cosmo Carmisciano, who works with the he National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

Researchers have discovered that portions of the Marsili volcano have already collapsed - and history has shown that the Tyrrhenian Sea, where Marsili is located, has a past evidence of tsunamis.

“Similar large collapses may well take place in the future of Marsali,” Carmisciano said.

When it happens is anyone’s guess – the Marsili volcano hasn’t erupted since researchers began watching it. But below the surface, researchers say the Marsili is definitely active and an eruption could come at anytime. If a tsunami was triggered, it could impact the areas of Sicily and Sardinia, researchers said.

“It could even happen tomorrow," Enzo Bosch Boschi, president INGV told Italy’s Corriere della Sera. "A rupture of the walls would let loose millions of cubic meters of material capable of generating a very powerful wave."

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. ArmageddonKitten

    @#52, Skeptical:

    Nice try, but if you look CLOSELY at the two images, you'll see that the color keys are defined in DIFFERENT UNITS. I put that in caps so that you will pay attention to it. Different units.

    Since the human eye can only see the color scale that is presented and therefore can only make use of /those/ colors to differentiate sections on a map, they have been re-used with different scales and different /units of measurement/ for different objects.

    I'm assuming the one on the left is "at" or "technical atmosphere" which would measure gravity pressing on the ocean floor. The one on the left is likely measuring magnetic fields, although I am unable to discern the unit of measurement there.

    In either case, the /caption/ on the images clearly states that it is showing MAGNETIC and GRAVITATIONAL anomalies, and those can't both be measured on the same map. But nice try. Next time,, be Skeptical in a more scientific manner, please.

    March 31, 2010 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Linda

    If you read through the world's history, many catastrophic natural events have occurred that have literally changed the face of our world. In the past, people did not have the tools to gain data about certain events, and thus, used their religions to explain them. They had no better way. Look at Santorini, Pompeii and Herculenium, as well as Sicily.
    Volcanic erruptions have plagued the Mediterranian for centuries, but, the tenacious peoples of these regions have insisted on rebuilding in the same locations that were anhialated. Every place on the planet has its own set of dangers that come with the territory. People have to live somewhere. It's up to them where they choose to live.

    Personnally, I would rather live in LA and deal with the occasional earthquakes than live where I would have to deal with hurricane season or tornado season,etc. Thank God that there is no "season" for earthquakes!

    March 31, 2010 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. Carol

    For our Italian friends and anyone is a coastal area facing a seismic zone, don't live in fear, just have some awareness and common sense. If you are on the beach and feel a quake, hear of a nearby one in the news – or if you see the tide go out very dramtically and rapidly (5-20 minute sudden low tide) – then you need to take to higher ground. If you live in such an area, develop a tsunami evacuation plan and route.

    I feel sorry for those that waste time poo-pooing a mere science article. Get off your behinds and go do something useful, like clean your room.

    March 31, 2010 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    "Dang! I hope everyone is keeping their faith in the Lord because the Earth is falling apart. No one knows when He's coming but only that He is coming! Only God knows"!

    March 31, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. nichol

    The experiments that CERN are conducting with the LARGE HADRON COLLIDER is and will cause an increase in seismic activity. LOOK IT UP.

    March 31, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tracie

    Is this news? Of course. Most Americans, for sure, had never heard of this volcano. One even asks in these comments where it is and needs a map to find Italy! Amazing. Any information you do not have is "new" to you, making it news. I agree and would die happy to never hear about Miley Cyrus or Brittany Spears on CNN again, but I don't rule the world. Oh, yeah, you will feel smart if this volcano collapses because even the complainers will tell their friends, "Oh, I heard that on CNN."

    March 31, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Susan

    Linda,
    I lived in L.A. No, there's no season for earthquakes. They come with virtually no warning & catch people unaware. Surprise, your house is bouncing!. I didn't like that . With storms, you have notice of at least the possibility. Gotta agree about hurricanes, though. They are relentless & seem to hit many of the same areas every year or so. That would get real old.
    All in all, I'd prefer Hawaii if I could. Hurricanes are pretty infrequent & tsunamis even moreso.

    March 31, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. david

    Right on Carlos, something brings back the balance between warming and cooling or else we would not have ever existed

    March 31, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Stephanie

    Don't be scared about it...I live in Sicily, it's totally normal – we are full of active volcanoes – even if it were to be above ground, there wouldn't be another ice age, the temperature is far too warm and the gusts of wind from the Sahari are far too warm.

    It's just a precaution and has been brought and blown out of proportion to the media.

    March 31, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. Gigi

    I think it is great that we have data that can show us the updated information on what is going on with the volcanoes. My family lives in Sicily and when I read things like this, what comes to my mind is how can people prepare for such catastrophies. My mom's home is right by the beach, I cannot even imagine what it would be like if a Tsunami were to hit. I believe we need to be the best people we can be and be prepared as much as one can be, physically, mentally and spiritually, because when catastrophies happen you and I are going to wish to be on God's side! I really want to thank geolosists and scientists who are studying the data and comparing it, please continue to keep us updated and informed! =)

    March 31, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Douglas Gray

    Pedro Regis, the visionary who has been getting messages from The Blessed Virgin since 1989 received this message in 2009:

    Dear Sons and Daughters, I am your Mother and I suffer because of My poor children who are far from The Lord. The day will come when many people will regret a life passed without God, but for many it will be late. Don´t let the devil deceive you. Belong to The Lord and transform your lives. Now is the time of Grace. Humanity is going on the path of self´destruction that people have prepared with their own hands. A great suffering will come for those who live in Italy. Something similar will come to those who live in Chile. The ground will be shaken and people will live in a time of great suffering. Pray. Only by prayer will you be able to support the weight of the cross. Seek your strength in The Lord. He loves you and is waiting for you. This is the message I transmit to you today in the name of The Most Holy Trinity. Thank you for permitting Me to reunite you here once more. I bless you in the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit. Amen. Be at peace.

    Notice that she predicted the Chile Earthquake, and she is predicting something for Italy as well.

    March 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Terrie

    Why haven't the TV News Team continued with this report of this impending danger to Sicily on a daily report or at least weekly. Hopefully the Italian Government is now educating their people to plan a evacuation when the time is near. Hopefully they will have enough time to seek higher grounds. This sounds unbelievable to have Sicily covered by water and be destrpyed! Millions of lives will be destroyed.

    There are many people from Sicily who live here and would like to be aware of impending danger to their relatives living there.

    Posted by: Terrie

    March 31, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. S.Choo Ying

    I'm really sorry thear whats going on there.All I have to say is God will guide everyone to safety,and I will keep praying for everyone!!!

    April 1, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lisa Houser

    Does anyone connect the Switzerland atom testing in Geneva with the increased activity of volcanoes and earthquakes? Ever since they have been testing we have had noticeable seismic activity. Just curious if anyone else is connecting the patterns. I for one think trying to re-create the "Big Bang" could be just that, not the beginning, but the end.

    April 6, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. dsangal

    Lisa H: (April 6th 2010, 11:06 am ET):
    If you're talking about the Large Hadron Collider, it's unlikely. The effect that the Collider is built to produce actually takes place at the upper edge of our atmosphere and beyond every day, at higher energies. Granted it's not happening on the planet, but. . . .
    (If a physicist has time to throw in a comment here, it would be helpful!)

    April 6, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
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