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1822 artist rendition of the eruption of Vesuvius, depicting what the AD 79 eruption may have looked like.

Plinian eruptions, also known as 'Vesuvian eruptions', are volcanic eruptions marked by their similarity to the eruption of Mount Vesuviusmarker in AD 79 (as described in a letter written by Pliny the Younger), which killed Pliny the Elder.

Plinian eruptions are marked by columns of gas and volcanic ash extending high into the stratosphere, a high layer of the atmosphere. The key characteristics are ejection of large amount of pumice and very powerful continuous gas blast eruptions.

Short eruptions can end in less than a day, but longer events can take several days to months. The longer eruptions begin with production of clouds of volcanic ash, sometimes with pyroclastic flows. The amount of magma erupted can be so large that the top of the volcano may collapse, resulting in a caldera. Fine ash can deposit over large areas. Plinian eruptions are often accompanied by loud noises, such as those generated by Krakatoamarker.

The lava is usually rhyolitic and rich in silicates. Basaltic lavas are unusual for Plinian eruptions; the most recent example is the 1886 eruption of Mount Taraweramarker.

Pliny's description

Pliny described his uncle's involvement from the first observation of the eruption:

Pliny the Elder set out to rescue the victims from their perilous position on the shore of the Bay of Naplesmarker, and launched his galleys, crossing the bay to Stabiaemarker (near the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia). Pliny the Younger provided an account of his death, and suggested that he collapsed and died through inhaling poisonous gases emitted from the volcano. His body was found interred under the ashes of the Vesuvius with no apparent injuries on 26 August, after the plume had dispersed, confirming asphyxiation or poisoning.


See also


  1. Enlightenment activities for improvement on disasters from Tarumae Volcano, Japan, Cities on Volcanoes 4, 23-27 January 2006

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