The 3550 year BP-1944 A.D.magma-plumbing system of Somma-Vesuvius: constraints on its behaviour and present state through a review of Sr-Nd isotope data

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L. Pappalardo
M. Piochi
G. Mastrolorenzo


Vesuvius, dominating the densely-populated Neapolitan area, is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the World. Its destructive power derives from energetic subplinian and plinian eruptions, such as the one which occurred in 79 A.D. Generally such large-scale events follow a long period of quiescence; a behaviour interpreted as the gradual build-up of magma volumes between periods of major activity. After the 1631 subplinian eruption until the last 1944 A.D. eruption, it experienced an almost continuous and less energetic explosive/effusive activity. The erupted magmas are characterized by undersaturated potassic to ultrapotassic nature, and compositional and Sr-isotopic
variability. Furthermore geobarometric studies indicate two different crystallization depths located at 4 and >11 km, respectively. According to most of the recent literature, the eruptions were triggered by the injection in a shallower
magma chamber, of isotopically distinct magma batches derived from heterogeneous mantle source(s) and/or contamination processes occurred within the deep reservoir. In our review of petrochemical data, we consider the period between the 3550 years BP plinian eruption and the 472 A.D. sub-plinian eruption, which includes 79 A.D. event, and the most recent period of activity which started in 1631 A.D. and lasted up to the 1944 A.D. eruption,
characterized by a near continuous effusive/explosive activity. For both periods we identify a correlation between
Sr-isotopical features of magmas and their crystallization depth. In particular, we show that pyroxenes have Sr-isotopic
ratios lower than 0.7074 and an equilibrium crystallization depth of 22-11 km. Moreover feldspars have higher 87Sr/86Sr values (0.7075-7) and an equilibrium crystallization depth of about 4 km. Therefore the most radiogenic magmas did not derive from a deeper reservoir but their higher Sr-isotopic ratios have been acquired at a shallower depth likely by crustal contamination during magma evolution. In contrast, the lower Sr-isotope compositions characterise the less contaminated magmas coming from deeper crustal levels. On the basis of this evidence, the temporal Sr-isotopical variation of magma which erupted in the 1631-1944 A.D. period probably derives from the progressive withdrawal of the shallow magma chamber, which was completely empty before the 1805-1944 A.D. period of volcanism. Therefore the effusive and explosive events of the most recent 1805-1944 A.D. period were fed directly by the deep reservoir located at a depth exceding 11 km.

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How to Cite
Pappalardo, L., Piochi, M. and Mastrolorenzo, G. (2004) “The 3550 year BP-1944 A.D.magma-plumbing system of Somma-Vesuvius: constraints on its behaviour and present state through a review of Sr-Nd isotope data”, Annals of Geophysics, 47(4). doi: 10.4401/ag-3354.

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