Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 70, Issue 5, pp 583–603 | Cite as

New insights into Late Pleistocene explosive volcanic activity and caldera formation on Ischia (southern Italy)

  • Richard J. BrownEmail author
  • Giovanni Orsi
  • Sandro de Vita
Research Article


A new pyroclastic stratigraphy is presented for the island of Ischia, Italy, for the period ∼75–50 ka BP. The data indicate that this period bore witness to the largest eruptions recorded on the island and that it was considerably more volcanically active than previously thought. Numerous vents were probably active during this period. The deposits of at least 10 explosive phonolite to basaltic-trachyandesite eruptions are described and interpreted. They record a diverse range of explosive volcanic activity including voluminous fountain-fed ignimbrite eruptions, fallout from sustained eruption columns, block-and-ash flows, and phreatomagmatic eruptions. Previously unknown eruptions have been recognised for the first time on the island. Several of the eruptions produced pyroclastic density currents that covered the whole island as well as the neighbouring island of Procida and parts of the mainland. The morphology of Ischia was significantly different to that seen today, with edifices to the south and west and a submerged depression in the centre. The largest volcanic event, the Monte Epomeo Green Tuff (MEGT) resulted in caldera collapse across all or part of the island. It is shown to comprise at least two thick intracaldera ignimbrite flow-units, separated by volcaniclastic sediments that were deposited during a pause in the eruption. Extracaldera deposits of the MEGT include a pumice fall deposit emplaced during the opening phases of the eruption, a widespread lithic lag breccia outcropping across much of Ischia and Procida, and a distal ignimbrite in south-west Campi Flegrei. During this period the style and magnitude of volcanism was dictated by the dynamics of a large differentiated magma chamber, which was partially destroyed during the MEGT eruption. This contrasts with the small-volume Holocene and historical effusive and explosive activity on Ischia, the timing and distribution of which has been controlled by the resurgence of the Monte Epomeo block. The new data contribute to a clearer understanding of the long-term volcanic and magmatic evolution of Ischia.


Pyroclastic stratigraphy Explosive volcanism Caldera collapse Ischia Late Pleistocene 



RJB acknowledges funding from the EU Volcano Dynamics Research Training Network (Fifth Framework Programme). The authors thank A. Carandente and P. Belviso for the support in the laboratory, and I. Arienzo, L. Civetta, E. Marotta and F. Sansivero for assistance and discussion in the field. R. Cioni, J. Keller, R. Sulpizio and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for comments that substantially improved earlier versions of the manuscript. This research was partly carried out under the framework of the Italian INGV-DPC 2004–2006 program, sub-project V3-3 Ischia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard J. Brown
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Giovanni Orsi
    • 1
  • Sandro de Vita
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaOsservatorio VesuvianoNapoliItaly
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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