Supervolcano

A 290,000,000-Year History

The Valsesian supervolcano, situated in an area which stretches from the village of Balmuccia to Prato Sesia, was active 290 million years ago; its violent and extraordinary eruptions, with their capacity to obscure the atmosphere and alter the global climate, led to the formation of a caldera (a crater) with a diameter of some kilometres. After 10 million years of activity, however, the volcano entered into an inactive phase until it finally collapsed in on itself. When, approximately 60 million years ago, Africa and Europe collided with each other, following the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean and the subsequent drift of the African continent, the Alps were formed. But as seen in Valsesia, the uprising of the earth's crust allowed the deepest parts of the magma-feeding system to emerge: thus, the entire magma system, which once was beneath the volcano at a depth of about 25 kilometres, was revealed giving us the possibility of appreciating areas which are normally inaccessible. An enormous discovery for geologist and volcanologists, who finally will be able to analyse and understand what actually happens underneath an active volcano.

The discovery naturally gave rise to a great deal of interest and stimulated intense activity to make the news public: educational courses, conferences, guided tours organized to satisfy the response and curiosity of those interested, local people and tourists. On this subject, a permanent exhibition has been organized at the Archaeological and Paleontological Museum "Carlo Conti" in Borgosesia; lastly, it has been realized a network of maps which enables the identification of the areas where the volcano emerged, as well as information panels which illustrate their characteristics and peculiarities.

Lastly, in 2010, the go-ahead was given to the procedures for the institution of a Geopark in Valsesia recognised by UNESCO. A geopark, as expressed in the definition by the European Geoparks Network, "must comprise a certain number of geological sites of particular importance in terms of their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal or educational value … but their interest may also be archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural. It is a signal of international recognition of excellence, synonymous with protection of the environment and of development”. Due to this reason, in September 2013 the "Sesia - Val Grande Geopark" - composed by the area of Supervolcano, part of the territory of Valsessera (Biella) and the National Park of Val Grande (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola) - has been included among the UNESCO International Network of Geoparks.

For more detailed information about the supervolcano, the initiatives proposed and the itineraries for visits to the volcano outcrop sites:

- www.supervulcano.it