Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

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Eruptive history

Vesuvio has a long and complex record of eruptions. Eruptions before AD 79 have neither been recorded in historical documents nor is there any folklore of previous activity. For the first millennium after Christ the record is incomplete and only with the late 17th century it becomes reasonably adequate. We can say that the most recent eruptive cycle, lasting from 1631 until 1944, has been very well documented and gives an idea of the behavior of the volcano during such a cycle.

Understanding of the volcano in longer terms is now beginning to thrive. It is known that eruptive cycles begin after repose periods that may last centuries to millennia, and their opening eruptions are devastatingly violent, Plinian events. The most famous one is the AD 79 eruption that has been so well described in the letters by the Pliny the Younger. In fact, it was his description that inspired volcanologists in the late 19th century to call eruptions like that of AD 79 "Plinian" eruptions.

In this section, summarizing accounts of the known eruptions of Vesuvio are given. More important eruptions are described in some more detail. An emphasis is put on the volcanic hazards aspect, thus the descriptions here will serve as examples of what we have to expect from the volcano which has, for good reasons, been declared one of the fifteen "Decade Volcanoes" of the United Nations' International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).

Information is available about

List of known Vesuvio eruptions
The eruptions before A.D. 79
The 3750 BP "Avellino" eruption
The A.D. 79 eruption
Eruptions from A.D. 79 until 1631
The AD 472 "Pollena" eruption
The AD 512 eruption
The 1631 eruption
The 1631-1944 eruptive cycle (image gallery)
Eruptive activity, 1632-1794

Copyright © Boris Behncke, "Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology"
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