The eruptive history of Vesuvio

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Vesuvio volcano, Italy

Eruptive history

Vesuvio has a long and complex record of eruptions. Eruptions before AD 79 have neither been recorded in historical documents nor is there any folklore of previous activity. For the first millennium after Christ the record is incomplete and only with the late 17th century it becomes reasonably adequate. We can say that the most recent eruptive cycle, lasting from 1631 until 1944, has been very well documented and gives an idea of the behavior of the volcano during such a cycle.

Understanding of the volcano in longer terms is now beginning to thrive. It is known that eruptive cycles begin after repose periods that may last centuries to millennia, and their opening eruptions are devastatingly violent, Plinian events. The most famous one is the AD 79 eruption that has been so well described in the letters by the Pliny the Younger. In fact, it was his description that inspired volcanologists in the late 19th century to call eruptions like that of AD 79 "Plinian" eruptions.

On this page, a summary of the known eruptions of Vesuvio will be given. More important eruptions will be described in some more detail. An emphasis is put on the volcanic hazards aspect, thus the descriptions here will serve as examples of what we have to expect from that volcano that has, for good reasons, been declared one of the fifteen "Decade Volcanoes" of the United Nations' International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).

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This page was last modified on 11 February 1996