Mount Vesuvius

3985 Words Nov 5th, 2011 16 Pages
Volcanic Eruptions: 79 AD Versus the Present
ATOC 250: Natural Disasters
Term Paper

Abstract: Volcanic eruptions can be disastrous and deadly. It is, therefore, important to look back at prior eruptions and compare them to present eruptions in order to draw conclusions on what could be done to mitigate loss of life and destruction. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD on Pompeii and surrounding areas proved to be catastrophic because of the location of the volcano and especially since citizens were not aware that an active volcano was in their midst. By examining the series of events that took place at Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and comparing them to the impacts and forecasting of present day volcanism, one could draw better conclusions
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It consists of the older volcano, a caldera, created by the collapse of its summit and the younger volcano, Vesuvius, which rises out inside of this caldera. (Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica Vulcanologia, n.d.)

There was some precursory activity leading up to the climactic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius during the discussed period is known as a Plinian eruption, named after Pliny the Younger who was the only surviving witness of the events of 79 AD. (Sigurdsson, 1982) A Plinian eruption is known to be hugely explosive. In 62 AD, seventeen years prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples and especially Pompeii suffered a destructive and powerful earthquake. This earthquake is speculated to have been a sign that magma had moved up the volcano’s chamber towards the surface and fractured the edifice of Vesuvius. (Sigurdsson, 1982)
An eyewitness from 62 AD, known as Seneca the Younger, reported ‘tainted air’ responsible for killing 600 sheep. Modern day scientists speculate that this ‘tainted air’ described by Seneca the Younger may have been Carbon Dioxide released by the volcano implying new activity from within Vesuvius, which in modern day society could have acted as a predictor of an oncoming eruption. (Surrell, 2010)
Another precursor involved a second foreshock in 64 AD. Suetonius Tranquillus and Tacitus, whom was
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