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Deadly Shadow of Vesuvius

Program Overview


NOVA follows scientists' efforts to predict the future of Mt. Vesuvius by monitoring current behavior and reconstructing past eruptions.

  • Scientists monitor temperature changes, volcanic gases, seismic activity, and apparent "ground uplifts" in the volcano and nearby fields to detect warning signs of a coming eruption.

  • Archeologists and geologists investigate the A.D. 79 eruption that devastated Pompeii. By comparing an eyewitness account—known as the Pliny letters—to the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption, examining remains of victims, and analyzing rock deposits, they conclude that the A.D. 79 eruption was most likely an explosive eruption rather than a quiet outflow.

  • Scientists combine data to create a computer animation of the A.D. 79 eruption. Actual video footage captures the eruption of 1944.

  • A team of geophysicists map the size, location, and condition of Mt. Vesuvius's magma chamber. The data suggests that the medium-size chamber is blocked by a plug.

Teacher's Guide
Deadly Shadow of Vesuvius
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