Natural Hazards

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 135–161 | Cite as

Impact of the clouds of volcanic aerosols in Italy during the last 7 centuries

  • Dario Camuffo
  • Silvia Enzi


Intense natural pollution has occurred in the past in Italy corresponding to intense volcanic activity, which appears to have diminished somewhat in recent times. Between 1500 and 1900, Etna, Vesuvius, Vulcano and Stromboli, plus volcanoes outside Italy were very active and there are numerous, well documented episodes of atmospheric acidification which caused widespread damage, especially to the vegetation. Other than the acid rains, volcanic emissions also caused so calleddry fogs which consist of a more or less dense mist composed of foul smelling gases and aerosols, characterized by a reddish color, that could appear and persist when the relative humidity was low as shown by measurements taken on such occasions. This phenomenon appeared most frequently at the beginning of the hot season. In fact, volcanic clouds of gases and aerosols formed especially when the Tyrrhenian sea water was relatively cold giving rise to very stable atmospheric conditions locally and the summer anticyclone meant that the winds were calm. Under such conditions the emissions of Stromboli and Vulcano, especially those emitted at low levels, remained entrapped in the stable layer, which were then transported towards the land reaching Northern Italy at a distance on the order of 103 km. Thedry fogs could persist for days or weeks. Harvests were seriously damaged and frequently the crops were subsequently attacked by parasites. The leaves of the vegetation became discoloured with numerous punctiform lesions or gangrene at the edges of the leaves. The phenomenon was so frequent that, in texts on agricultural meteorology of the 1800s, a distinction was made between the causticdry fogs which damaged the vegetation anddamp fogs which instead were good for it. The most important episode occurred in 1783 due to the activity of Laki Grímsvötn (Iceland) with the contribution of Italian volcanoes. This dry fog lasted many months and affected the greater part of the northern hemisphere including Europe and Asia, harming people, animals and vegetation. Apart from paroxysmal cases, from the 1300s up to today, some tens ofdry fogs have been noted, all of which have been sufficiently well documented. The frequency of these events culminated between the middle of the 1700s and the middle of the 1800s. There is reason to believe that this well documented phenomenon of the past, with sufficient volcanic activity, could recur on the meso and large scale; with present day activity the emissions continue to cause damage to vegetation, both in the Aspromonte mountains (Calabria, Southem Italy) as well as in other parts of Italy.

Key words

Volcanic emissions volcanic aerosols dry fogs volcanic hazards volcanoes Italy 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References bs]Modern Papers

  1. Barry, R. G. and Chorley, R. J,: 1978,Atmosphere, Weather and Climate, Methuen and Co., London, 432 pp.Google Scholar
  2. Bebber, A. E.: 1990, Una cronologia del larice (Larix decidua mill.) delle Alpi orientali italiane,Dendrochronologia 8, 119–139.Google Scholar
  3. Bonacini, T.: 1939, Meteore ottiche registrate all'Osservatorio di Modena nel periodo 1828–1935.Pubblicazioni del R. Osservatorio Geofisico di Modena, n. 59, Soliani, Modena, 63 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Bonino, G., Cini Castagnoli, G., Callegari, E. and Zhu, G.M.: 1993, Radiometric and Tephroanalysis Dating of Recent Ionian Sea Cores,Nuovo Cimento 16C(2), 155–162.Google Scholar
  5. Bradley, R. S. and Jones, P. D.: 1992, Records of explosive volcanic eruptions over the last 500 years, in R. S. Bradley and P. D. Jones (eds.),Climate since A.D. 1500, Routledge, London, pp. 606–622.Google Scholar
  6. Bryant, E. A.: 1991,Natural Hazards, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  7. Burro, M.: 1987, Analisi di strutture lignee ritrovate sulla riva del fiume Brenta,Dendrochronologia 5, 105–109.Google Scholar
  8. Camuffo, D.: 1990, Acidic Precipitation in Italy, in A. H. M. Bresser and W. Salomons (eds.),Acidic Precipitation- Volume 5: International Overview and Assessment, Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 229–265.Google Scholar
  9. Camuffo, D.: 1992, Acid rain and deterioration of monuments: how old is the phenomenon?Atmospheric Environment 26B(2), 241–247.Google Scholar
  10. Cini Castagnoli, G., Bonino, G., Caprioglio, F., Provenzale, A., Serio, M., and Zhu G. M.: 1990, The carbonate profile of two recent Ionian Sea cores: Evidence that the sedimentation rate is constant over the last millennia,Geophys. Res. Lett. 17(11), 1937–1940.Google Scholar
  11. Chester, D. K., Duncan, A. M., Guest, J. E., and Kilburn, C. R. J.: 1985,Mount Etna, Chapman and Hall, London, 404 pp.Google Scholar
  12. CNR-CENFAM and MDA-ITAV: 1964,Research Work on the Project Cyclone Development in the Lee of the Alps, 4th General Report, STR No. 6, CNR-CENFAM, Rome.Google Scholar
  13. Corliss, W. R.: 1983a, Tornados, dark days, anomalous precipitation and related weather phenomena, Sourcebook Project, Glen Arm.Google Scholar
  14. Corliss, W.R.: 1983b, Earthquakes, tides, unidentified sounds and related phenomena, Sourcebook Project, Glen Arm.Google Scholar
  15. Gisotti, G.: 1984, Potenziali effetti delle piogge acide sul patrimonio agricolo e boschivo, inPrecipitazioni acide in Italia - Problemi ed effetti, Progetto Finalizzato Energetica, SC-12, CNR-ENEA, Rome, pp. 215–244.Google Scholar
  16. Eredia, F.: 1911,II clima di Roma, Bertero, Rome.Google Scholar
  17. Hammer, C. U.: 1977, Past volcanism revealed by Greenland ice sheet impurities,Nature 270, 482–486.Google Scholar
  18. Hammer, C. U., Clausen, H. B., and Dansgaard, W.: 1980, Greenland ice sheet evidence of postglacial volcanism and its climatic impact,Nature 288, 230–235.Google Scholar
  19. Lamb, H. H.: 1970, Volcanic dust in atmosphere, inPhil. Trans. Roy. Soc., A, 266 n. 1178, 25–533.Google Scholar
  20. Lorenzini, G.: 1983,Le piante e l'inquinamento dell'aria, Edagricole, Bologna, 355 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Lorenzini, G., Panattoni, A., and Guidi, L.: 1987, Ricerche sugli effetti fitotossici dei fluoruri atmosferici nei dintomi di una sorgente industriale.Informatore Fitopatologico 37(3), 41–48.Google Scholar
  22. Meteorological Office: 1962,Weather in the Mediterranean, Vol. I: General Meteorology, H.M.S.O. London, 199 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Priestley, M. B.: 1981,Spectral Analysis and Time Series, Academic Press, London, 890 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Reiter, E. R.: 1971,Digest of Selected Weather Problems of the Mediterranean, NAVWEARSCHFAC TP. No. 9-71, Navy Research Facility, Norfolk, Va.Google Scholar
  25. Reiter, E. R.: 1975,Handbook for Forecasters in the Mediterranean, ENVPREDSCHFAC TP. No. 5-75, Navy Research Facility, Naval Postgraduate School, Montrey, Ca.Google Scholar
  26. Romano, R. and Sturiale, C.: 1982, The historical eruptions of Mt. Etna,Mem. Soc. Geol. It. 23, 75–79.Google Scholar
  27. Salmelli, D.: 1986, L'alluvione e il freddo: il 1705 e il 1709, in R. Finzi (ed.),Le meteore e il frumento, II Mulino, Bologna, 387 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Santomauro, L.: 1957,Lineamenti climatici di Milano, Quaderni della città di Milano, Milano, 251 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Simkin, T., Siebert, L., McClelland, L., Bridge, D., Newhall, C., and Latter, J. H.: 1981,Volcanoes of the World, Smithsonian Institution, Hutchinson Ross, Stroudsbourg (USA), 232 pp.Google Scholar
  30. Stothers, R. B. and Rampino, M. R.: 1983, Volcanic eruptions in the Mediterranean before A.D. 630 from written and archeological sources,J. Geophys. Res. 88(B8), 6357–6371.Google Scholar
  31. Sutcliffe, R. C.: 1960, Depressions, Fronts and Air Masses Modifications in the Mediterranean,UNESCO/WMO Seminar on Mediterranean Synoptic Meteorology, Rome, 1958.Google Scholar
  32. Thodarson, Th. and Self, S.: 1993, The Laki (Skaftár Fires) and Grímsvötn eruptions in 1783–1785,Bull. Volcanol. 55, 233–263.Google Scholar
  33. Wei, W. W. S.: 1990,Time Series Analysis, Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, Ca., 478 pp.Google Scholar
  34. Zanon, F. S.: 1927,Riassunti mensili e annuali delle osservazioni meteorologiche del cinquantennio 1875–1925, Ferrari, Venice, pp. 1380–1432.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dario Camuffo
    • 1
  • Silvia Enzi
    • 1
  1. 1.National Research Council, CNR-ICTIMAPadovaItaly

Personalised recommendations