The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday was one of the most severe in decades. Ash and acid rain fell widely in the Pacific. The pressure waves were even measurable in Switzerland.
As if out of nowhere, the mighty volcano seemed to start all at once. Previously, he slumbered under water. One of many. The exact number of underwater volcanoes does not exist.
“We know that the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is dotted with thousands of volcanoes, but we only know a small fraction of them,” Carlo Doglioni, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ».
Italian underwater volcano as big as Luxembourg
Underwater volcanoes aren’t just found in the distant Pacific. In Italy, too, a gigantic giant is dawning. His name: Marsili. It is the largest underwater volcano in Europe.
The massif should extend over an area of about 2000 km². This corresponds roughly to the size of Luxembourg. Experts assume that Marsili was formed a good two million years ago.
The mega volcano is located between Palermo and Naples in the Mediterranean Sea. It was not discovered until the 20th century and was then named after the Italian scholar Luigi Ferdinando Marsili (1658-1730).
Tsunami waves of up to 20 meters possible
Is that why a catastrophe similar to that in the Pacific is looming in Europe? Experts assume that if Marsili erupts, tsunamis could occur. The waves, up to 20 meters high, would then hit the surrounding coasts and devastate everything there.
Whether the Marsili will erupt is difficult to say. It is possible. It last erupted 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. “Although Marsili is a large volcano, we do not have a submarine monitoring system that would allow us to fully understand its activity and the level of explosiveness,” explains Doglioni.
Volcano could also collapse
But that doesn’t mean the Marsili isn’t being monitored. It’s just that it’s hard to predict what’s going on inside him and the magnitude of an outbreak. A collapse of the volcano is also possible. Both an eruption and a collapse mean a high tsunami risk.
The Marsili is and remains a mystery. Just like many other smaller volcanoes in the Mediterranean. According to Italian civil protection, dozens are slumbering hidden under the water. They are also largely unexplored. (jmh)