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. Kevin Winter

    I wish you would have a map with this article showing where in the world this volcano is located and what areas might be affected by a wave if the walls do collapes.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cristine

    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 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. doug

    This is really so non-news it is pathetic. A little research shows that 1) they've known about this volcano since the 1950's. 2) A volcano that erupted 1,000 years ago is considered active. 3) There is nothing in this story indicating that the volcano is doing anything at all to raise concern about an imminent explosion.
    You can read the same 'news' from 1999 if you hunt the net a little bit. Down with non-news!

    March 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • justine

      I'm so bloody glad. Living in Malta it would obviously be of great concern. It's terrifying to think!!!

      March 16, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. HRS

    I am not concerned when the volcanos and earthquakes occur, my concern is when volcanos and earthquakes cease. Because if that happens it means the earths core has solidified and cooled off. Then the earth is dead. The planet would begin to cool, we would lose the ozone causing great tempurature shifts where you were on the sunny side of the planet you would see tempuratures between 150 to 250 degrees F and on the side facing away from the earth temuratures would plummet to 150 to 250 degrees F below 0. So make sure we still have the volcanos and earthquakes as this is the sign of life for our planet.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vixis

    Kevin, here is a description of where the Marsili Volcano is located:

    Mt. Marsili, which rises 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) from the seabed in the Tyrrhenian Sea southwest of Naples, is capable of producing huge tidal waves along southern Italy.

    If you look at the map of Italy, the volcano is located toward the front curve of the boot shape.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • AT

      Would Malta be affected?

      March 14, 2011 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matt


    Only complete nutcases would blame falling rocks on God instead of gravity... wow. All that being said, there are many dangerous volcanoes on land and underwater. This is one of them. As for the location, learn to use Google Earth. Its free, fun, and easy to install.


    March 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    Look at the bright side, if it was above the sea, the ash cloud would put the whole world back in the ice age

    March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jessica

    I agree with Doug. I understand that the exact def. of news is constantly debated, however most people will at least agree tht news has to be current. This information has not changed in years and most likely will not change for years to come so it is not news.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carole Clarke

    The earth is only cooling by releasing all this pent-up energy by way of earthquake and volcanoes. This has been happening since the earth was formed. It's like a steam engine that must vent steam or blow up. Smart people keep away from such areas. Unfortunately such areas have rich soil for growing so people risk it to farm. This sea is the stretch of water on Italy's west coast and a large wave could affect both islands mentioned plus Naples (we have a naval port there at Gaeta) and in a long shot, Rome. Remember that behind Naples is Vesuvius, which covered Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79AD. On the eastern tip of Sicily is Mount Aetna amd between them is Stromboli on a tiny island. Plates meet underwater in this area. All are considered active.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dre

    Kind of reminds me of Chicken Little
    "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!"
    The earth is not falling apart. Seismic activity is NORMAL!

    March 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Richard

    This appears to be a news story attempting to feed off of the more than normal volcanic activity across the world. Of which thier is none, the earth is an active system, volcano's and earthquakes are a normal part of that system. Data clearly shows that this year has been little different than any other year as far as that activity is concerned, it is simply more noticable because of Haiti.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Regina

    Geology is so fascinating. So glad to be living in a time where we can watch and understand the constantly changing planet earth.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Terry

    Right on Doug! You did, however, forget 4)the reporter had no clue what was being read. Very typical in these days of oped news.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dave

    If you do a search on Marsili on Wikipedia it links to the coordinates of the volcano.

    March 30, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    I have to take issue with an earlier post. A volcano displaying activity 1,000 years ago could easily be active today. Volcanoes often undergo long periods of inactivity (Mt St Helens is a good example). The story was not explicit, but loss of magnetism could indicate rise of magma which could be the prelude to an eruption. The story does mention the instability of the walls of the volcano and that is somewhat easier to observe. I agree that the authors could have done a better job of explaining the current activity.

    March 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
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