Contrasting styles of Mount Vesuvius activity in the period between the Avellino and Pompeii Plinian eruptions, and some implications for assessment of future hazards
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Intense explosive activity occurred repeatedly at Vesuvius during the nearly 1,600-year period between the two Plinian eruptions of Avellino (3.5 ka) and Pompeii (79 A.D.). By correlating stratigraphic sections from more than 40 sites around the volcano, we identify the deposits of six main eruptions (AP1–AP6) and of some minor intervening events. Several deposits can be traced up to 20 km from the vent. Their stratigraphic and dispersal features suggest the prevalence of two main contrasting eruptive styles, each involving a complex relationship between magmatic and phreatomagmatic phases. The two main eruption styles are (1) sub-Plinian to phreato-Plinian events (AP1 and AP2 members), where deposits consist of pumice and scoria fall layers alternating with fine-grained, vesiculated, accretionary lapilli-bearing ashes; and (2) mixed, violent Strombolian to Vulcanian events (AP3–AP6 members), which deposited a complex sequence of fallout, massive to thinly stratified, scoria-bearing lapilli layers and fine ash beds. Morphology and density variations of the juvenile fragments confirm the important role played by magma–water interaction in the eruptive dynamics. The mean composition of the ejected material changes with time, and shows a strong correlation with vent position and eruption style. The ranges of intensity and magnitude of these events, derived by estimations of peak column height and volume of the ejecta, are significantly smaller than the values for the better known Plinian and sub-Plinian eruptions of Vesuvius, enlarging the spectrum of the possible eruptive scenarios at Vesuvius, useful in the assessment of its potential hazard.
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