Mount Vesuvius, Italy, quiescent since A.D. 1944, is a dangerous volcano currently characterized by elevated CO2 emissions of debated origin. We show that such emissions are most likely the surface manifestation of the deep intrusion of alkalic-basaltic magma into the sedimentary carbonate basement, accompanied by sidewall assimilation and CO2 volatilization. During the last eruptive period (1631–1944), the carbonate-sourced CO2 made up 4.7–5.3 wt% of the vented magma. On a yearly basis, the resulting CO2 production rate is comparable to CO2 emissions currently measured in the volcanic area. The chemical and isotopic composition of the fumaroles supports the predominance of this crust-derived CO2 in volatile emissions at Mount Vesuvius.

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