Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shattering past of the 'island of glass': Pantelleria, a little-known island near Sicily, was once covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass

Date:
May 21, 2014
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
A tiny Mediterranean island visited by the likes of Madonna, Sting, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone is now the focus of a ground-breaking study by geologists. Pantelleria, a little-known island between Sicily and Tunisia, is a volcano with a remarkable past: 45 thousand years ago, the entire island was covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass.

Spectacular sea-cliffs of Pantelleria volcano island reveal how volcanoes work.
Credit: Mike Branney/ University of Leicester

A tiny Mediterranean island visited by the likes of Madonna, Sting, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone is now the focus of a ground-breaking study by University of Leicester geologists.

Pantelleria, a little-known island between Sicily and Tunisia, is a volcano with a remarkable past: 45 thousand years ago, the entire island was covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass.

Volcanologists Drs Mike Branney, Rebecca Williams and colleagues at the University of Leicester Department of Geology have been uncovering previously unknown facts about the island's physical history.

And their study, published in "Geology" earlier this year, also provides insights into the nature of hazardous volcanic activity in other parts of the world.

Describing the volcanic activity on the island, Dr Branney said: "A ground-hugging cloud of intensely hot gases and volcanic dust spread radially out from the erupting volcano in all directions.

"Incandescent rock fragments suspended in the all-enveloping volcanic cloud were so hot, molten and sticky that they simply fused to the landscape forming a layer of glass, over hills and valleys alike. The hot glass then actually started flowing down all the slopes rather like sticky lava. 'Ground zero' in this case was the entire island -- nothing would have survived -- nature had sterilized and completely enamelled the island.

"Today Pantelleria is verdant and has been re-colonised, but even as you approach it by ferry you can see the green layer of glass covering everything -- even sea cliffs look like they've been draped in candle wax. Exactly how this happened has only recently come to light."

The Leicester team have reconstructed how the incandescent density current gradually inundated the entire island. They carefully mapped-out how the chemistry of the glass varies from place to place, and use this to show in unparalleled detail how the ground-hugging current at first was restricted to low, central areas, but then gradually advanced radially towards hills, eventually overtopping them all. Even more remarkably, the devastating current then gradually retreated from hill-tops, and the area covered by it gradually decreased so that, by the end of the eruption, only lower ground, close to the volcano continued to be immersed by it. Such advance-retreat behaviour may be typical of catastrophic currents in nature, such as at other volcanoes, and it may help us better understand undersea currents that are triggered by earthquakes.

"We are trying to ascertain whether this volcanic eruption was just a freak, oddball event. Well, it turns out that the delightful island, now used as a quiet getaway by celebrities, has been the site of at least five catastrophic eruptions of similar type.

"The remarkable volcanic activity on the island was not just a one-off. And as the volcano continues to steam away quite safely, it seems reasonable that in thousands of years time, it may once again erupt with devastating effect.

"Our investigations should help us understand what happens during similar and much larger explosive eruptions elsewhere around the world, such as the Yellowstone-Snake River region of USA."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Williams, M. J. Branney, T. L. Barry. Temporal and spatial evolution of a waxing then waning catastrophic density current revealed by chemical mapping. Geology, 2013; 42 (2): 107 DOI: 10.1130/G34830.1

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Shattering past of the 'island of glass': Pantelleria, a little-known island near Sicily, was once covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521094747.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2014, May 21). Shattering past of the 'island of glass': Pantelleria, a little-known island near Sicily, was once covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521094747.htm
University of Leicester. "Shattering past of the 'island of glass': Pantelleria, a little-known island near Sicily, was once covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521094747.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins