Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse     
Rosi M., Principe C., Vecci R. The 1631 Vesuvius eruption: A reconstruction based on historical and stratigraphical data. In: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, vol. 58 pp. 151 - 182. Elsevier Science, 1993.
The eruption of 1631 A.D. was the most violent and destructive event in the recent history of Vesuvius. More than fifty primary documents, written in either Italian or Latin, were critically examined, with preference given to the authors who eyewitnessed volcanic phenomena. The eruption started at 7 a.m. on December 16 with the formation of an eruptive column and was followed by block and lapilli fallout east and northeast of the volcano until 6 p.m. of the same day. At 10 a.m. on December 17, several nuées ardentes were observed to issue from the central crater, rapidly descending the flanks of the cone and devastating the villages at the foot of Vesuvius. In the night between the 16th and 17th and on the afternoon of the 17th, extensive lahars and floods, resulting from rainstorms, struck the radial valleys of the volcano as well as the plain north and northeast. Deposits of the eruption were identified in about 70 localities on top of an ubiquitous paleosol formed during a long preeruptive volcanic quiescence. The main tephra unit consists of a plinian fallout composed of moderately vesicular dark green lapilli, crystals and lithics. Isopachs of the fallout are elongated eastwards and permit a conservative volume calculation of 0.07 km3. The peak mass flux deduced from clast dispersal models is estimated in the range 3-6 × 107 kg/s, corresponding to a column height of 17-21 km. East of the volcano the plinian fallout is overlain by ash-rich low-grade ignimbrite, surges, phreatomagmatic ashes and mud flows. Ash flows occur in paleovalleys around the cone of Vesuvius but are lacking on the Somma side, suggesting that pyroclastic flows had not enough energy to overpass the caldera wall of Mt. Somma. Deposits are generally unconsolidated, massive with virtually no ground layer and occasionally bearing sparse rests of charred vegetation. Past interpretations of the products emitted on the morning of December 17 as lava flows are inconsistent with both field observations and historical data. Features of the final phreatomagmatic ashes are suggestive of alternating episodes of wet ash fallout and rainfalls. Lahars interfingered with primary ash fallout confirm episodes of massive remobilization of loose tephra by heavy rainfalls during the final stage of the eruption. Chemical analyses of scoria clasts suggest tapping of magma from a compositionally zoned reservoir. Leucite-bearing, tephritic-phonolite (SiO2 51.17%) erupted in the early plinian phase was in fact followed by darker and slightly more mafic magma richer in crystals (SiO2 49.36%). During the nuées ardentes phase the composition returned to that of the early phase of the eruption. The reconstruction of the 1631 eruptive scenario supplies new perspectives on the hazards related to plinian eruptions of Vesuvius.
URL: http://https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-volcanology-and-geothermal-research/
Subject Italy
Vesuvius volcano
1631 eruption
historical records
products composition

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