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. Enrico

    News for some of the readers, but this was known long ago. Plenty of vulcanic activity down and around that area and it's just a question of time when it will happen and not if it will happen.

    March 30, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kugellager

    Well according to the map at the top of this article it looks like it is located at roughly about 39 15' 00" N by 14 20' 00" E.

    When entered into Google Earth, the under sea terrain is not as detailed but does follow the general pattern of the above map.

    Typical alarmist reporting of something that goes on every day.

    March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pat

    More evidence of global warming.

    March 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. davide

    Marsili is a huge and active volcanic area – please check on wiki – I am italian and I didn't know it was there... Now I understand why the water is really warm in Eolie islands...
    Suppose it happens, how much time the wave will take for reaching Campania, Calabria, Sicilia?

    March 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chuck

    Since when is Bermuda a volcanic island. I thought it was formed from coral deposits, etc. I bet Joe can confirm.

    March 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David-St. Louis

    Thats only if the sharks do not come to our rescue and stop the giant wave.

    March 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Heilama

    I love volcanos. I am from Nicaragua and there are lots them, both active and inactive. We are known as the land of Lakes and Volcanos. We got lagoons to boot on account of volcanos.

    March 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ana

    Marsili was news to me also, and I've had 2 yrs of geology and plate tectonics at University level so far. No-one knows or hears about everything, even if they watch geology videos. Must have missed the '99 report. Well, it's good to be informed; I would rethink any plans to move to Calabria in the next few years.
    It does sound as if there is a reason to monitor seismic activity in that area, especially if one lives there. People build in unstable places all the time and forget to be wary of the signs of new developments. Yes, we have quakes every day and should be glad of it; the more there are, the less intense, usually, as with volcanic venting. Watch for "swarms" of quakes near a volcano as one sign of forewarning.
    The time it takes for a tsunami to reach another spot on earth is calculated by trajectory and magnitude of wave produced, Davide; nearby the effect would be seen quite soon. Google recent tsunami's and check. It is best to be mindful, yet unafraid. Fear itself can become a self-fulfilling experience.

    March 30, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matthew

    I'm not going to completely denounce the possible religious ties this future eruption could have, but please don't go around telling people they are sinners. Religious feelings based out of guilt or shame are in my opinion not very well-founded. And i do think it necessary to feel guilt and shame, because they teach us to change for the better and humble ourselves. But this is an interesting volcano. I wonder of the Vatican has prepared for this scenario? This is an insanely beautiful part of the world, i really hope i one day can go to Italy before anything bad happens.

    March 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scott

    Oh i see you can't say anything about salvation only how terrible we can be as sinners. Nice. It's too bad that you will be accountable to God for holding back information from those that don't know the truth. And it's also sad that one can't just bring up conversation about something good. I pray that not all moderators are like yourself.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. justanotheridiot

    The only thing worse than non-news is all the idiotic comments.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    Hey Don,

    You're right, it's a good thing its below the level of the water. I'd hate to see that huge ash cloud. Unfortunately, we could almost mirror this 'non'news and redirect your attention to Yellowstone National Park right here in the US. Remember Ol' Faithful? Yellowstone, above sea level, a HUGE magma pocket under the park... and when it does goes, which also could be any day, it'll change life as we know it. Wave goodbye to the Western U.S. Have a nice day 😀

    March 30, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sarah

    In response to Christine and others...

    The world is constantly changing : shifting, moving, crumbling, etc.
    There may be times when you notice: Volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, etc.
    There may be times when you don't notice, such as the earth spinning.

    You must remember that a long, long time ago, the Earth's continents were together as one.
    The earth is ALIVE! It moved, shifted, and changed very slowly.

    It's been in constant motion and will continue to be in motion and in change.

    It will not stop just because we like Sicily (and other places) fine where they are and how we built them up.

    Some of the changes will have negative impacts on the Earth's inhabitants..
    That's just life.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ana

    Well said, Matthew. Interesting correlation in terms of Italian problems this year and last. Who indeed are the sinners?
    Haitians were told, however, that the earthquake they suffered was due to their "sins" as a means of applying social control to a marginalized, ripped-off and left behind ex-slave population who demanded their freedom from the French, only to be required to pay a huge settlement sum. Then Baby Doc ran away with the coffer his father extorted. A very oppressed people with great spirit.
    Instead, the truth is that the tectonic plates moved. In fact, there was a swarm of small quakes in the Puerto Rico region just before the Haiti quake followed by a few larger quakes on or near the West Coast of Mexico at similar latitudes. The pressure from both sides >>*<< of the Caribbean Plate finally created the need for the faults in Haiti and later Cuba & Dominican Republic to react. Port-au-Prince being a disaster waiting to unfold. This dynamic continues, ongoing, as it does round about Italy.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rhi

    Yeah people are just uneducated enough to just assume it's God, or some divine happening, Too bad the reality is that science actually explains everything if you actually look into it.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grannie

      Rhi What's really cool, is that God explains science so incredibly well, not the other way around...the more you try to refute God or creationism, the easier it is to have simple faith in God!! Science is just another of God's ways to allow us created humans (in His image by the way), to be entertained, enlightened (and sometimes amused), by what an incredible universe He spoke into existence!!! Keep searching Rhi – God's as close as your next breath OK??

      October 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
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