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This is the pilot borehole of the Campi Flegrei Deep Drilling Project (CFDDP), an ambitious initiative to drill more than three kilometres (10,000ft) into a supervolcano beneath the Gulf of Naples. Campi Flegrei dwarfs Mount Vesuvius, the region’s more famous volcano. It has the power to kill hundreds of thousands of people and even change the planet’s climate.
Drilling into one of the world’s most hazardous geological features might seem dangerous – especially right now, when images of geological destruction from last week's devastating earthquake in Italy are all too fresh. The scientists behind the project, including Carlino, argue that the real danger is not knowing enough to prepare for an eruption. But others, led by an iconoclastic geochemist named Benedetto De Vivo, fear the drilling could cause a catastrophe. The long-simmering controversy is about something bigger than one project: it's a debate about how deep science should go when the quest for knowledge is fraught with both risk and reward.
...During the 1982-84 episode, scientists witnessed uplift such as had not been seen at Campi Flegrei in modern times. An eruption seemed very much at hand. When nothing happened and the ground subsided, it underscored how poor geologists' understanding of Campi Flegrei was. Thirty years later, the volcano’s plumbing is still something of a mystery. For example, scientists don't fully understand what exactly is lifting up the ground during uplift: fluids heated by magma (less dangerous) or the magma itself (much more). That's because right now, geologists' knowledge is based on data collected at the surface, which offers an incomplete picture. The behaviour of rock under high pressure and temperature can only be observed in artificial lab conditions.
On October 6, 2010, less than a year after the project's approval, the Naples daily newspaper Il Mattino ran a front-page story under the headline, "If you touch the volcano Naples will explode." The article relied on the claims of Benedetto De Vivo, a professor at the University of Naples Federico II, who warned that deep drilling in Campi Flegrei could cause an explosion, earthquakes, or even an eruption. With the city atwitter, the then-mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, put the project on hold, saying Italy's emergency-management agency, Protezione Civile, needed to review it for safety.
...the geochemist argues that drilling at Campi Flegrei could cause a "hydrothermal explosion" if drilling equipment were to encounter superheated fluid underground. He cites Indonesia's ongoing Sidoarjo mud flow, which may have been triggered by a blowout at a natural gas well.
More theoretically, De Vivo contends that an explosion has the potential to cause a catastrophic chain reaction. "If you have a hydrothermal explosion, this fluid is coming out," he says. "Then you release the pressure, and magma, which is sitting below – it could generate a magmatic eruption."
originally posted by: InFriNiTee
I always visualized that if this happens, and they don't melt the EXPENSIVE bit, it would effectively release built-up pressure. I thought of this idea the first time I heard that "Yellowstone might go off in our lifetimes". I think this is a fantastic experiment by them! I'm sure the risks are high, but what more of a risk is it if it kills over half a million people when or if it goes off? I will send my best wishes to the team that will be overseeing this event. Thanks for posting!
originally posted by: ignorant_ape
a reply to: TrueAmerican
comparing the dome of a caldera to a baloon is the most assanine analogy i have heard
and PS - where would you site the observatory ?? - given the clue is in the name - it has to observe the caldera
originally posted by: angeldoll
a reply to: InFriNiTee
....the payoff could be phenomenal.
originally posted by: tigertatzen
a reply to: TrueAmerican
How serious are they about attempting this??
If they don't even know for certain what is lurking under there, how can they have any real confidence that they can contain it??