The animation shows what has been called the plinian stage of a volcanic eruption. It is named after Pliny, a Roman soldier who sailed into the port of Stabiae to try to help some of the people fleeing the volcano. During the plinian stage, dust, ashes, cinders, and rocks erupt high into the air. This stage may last for hours or even days . No lava flows occur during the plinian stage.In time the dust, ashes, cinders, and rocks settle back to Earth. In areas near the eruption, the amount of these materials can be enormous. During thefirst eight hours of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD they fell on Pompeii to depths of 2 to 4 meters (8-10 feet). The heaps of small rocks that landed on the houses caused many roofs to collapse.In the next stage of the eruption, a superhot cloud of steam and mud flowed down the side of Vesuvius and covered the town of Herculaneum. It took only about four minutes for the boiling mud to flow from Vesuvius to Herculaneum, a distance of about 7 kilometers (4 miles).
Vesuvius is near a place where one section of the Earth’s surface is being pushed down below another section. These sections are called plates. When plates grind against one another two things can result–earthquakes and volcanoes. Volcanoes begin to form when the rocks of the lower plate get pushed deep into the Earth. There they are heated, until they melt, forming magma, one kind of liquid rock. Because magma is less dense than the solid rock around it, it is pushed upward. If this magma finds a weak place at the Earth’s surface, it may break through and form a volcano.
62 February 5–A major earthquake almost destroys the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Many buildings are damaged or destroyed, and the aqueducts that bring water into Pompeii are ruined.
79 August 24 and 25–Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii in ash and cinders and covering Herculaneum in mud as hard as rock. Ash, rock and cinders fall over a large area, damaging house…


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