In the Greek isles, a volcano has awakened

Apr 23, 2012

In 1650 B.C.E., a series of massive volcanic eruptions decimated the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization. Over the next 4 millennia, the largely subaquatic Santorini caldera had a series of smaller eruptions, with five such events within the past 600 years, and ending most recently in 1950. From the air, the Santorini caldera appears as a small cluster within the larger collection of Greek islands in the southern Aegean Sea. Following a 60-year lull, Santorini woke up on 9 January 2011 with a swarm of low-magnitude earthquakes.

A GPS installed in the area in 2006 gave Newman et al. a stable background against which to compare the effects of the reawakened volcano. By June 2011 the regional GPS stations showed that they had been pushed 5–32 millimeters (0.2–1.3 inches) farther from the caldera than they had been just six months earlier. Following these initial results, the authors bolstered the GPS network and conducted a more extensive survey in September 2011, which confirmed that the land near the volcano was swelling. Continued monitoring from September through January 2012 showed the expansion was accelerating, reaching a rate of 180 mm (7 in) per year.

Using a model that interpreted the source of the deformation as an expanding sphere, the authors suggest that the expansion is due to an influx of 14.1 million cubic meters (498 million cubic feet) of magma into a chamber 4–5 kilometers (2.5-3.1 miles) below the surface. The authors suggest that the ongoing expansion is not necessarily the signal of an impending eruption, adding that the recent swelling represents only a fraction of that which led to the Minoan eruption. However, they warn that even a small eruption could trigger ash dispersion, tsunamis, landslides, or other potentially dangerous activity.

Explore further: A 3-D view of the Greenland Ice Sheet opens window on ice history

More information: “Recent Geodetic Unrest at Santorini Caldera, Greece”, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2012GL051286, 2012 .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Santorini: The ground is moving again in paradise

Mar 13, 2012

Do a Google image search for "Greece." Before you find pictures of the Parthenon or Acropolis, you'll see several beautiful photos of Santorini, the picturesque island in the Aegean Sea. The British Broadcasting ...

Mega eruption of Yellowstone's southern twin

Mar 28, 2006

North America isn't the only continent that's experienced super-colossal volcanic eruptions in the recent geologic past. The massive explosion of the almost unknown Vilama Caldera in Argentina appears to have ...

Possible trigger for volcanic 'super-eruptions' found

Oct 12, 2011

The "super-eruption" of a major volcanic system occurs about every 100,000 years and is considered one of the most catastrophic natural events on Earth, yet scientists have long been unsure about what triggers ...

Recommended for you

Geologists solve mystery of Tibetan mountains

Jan 23, 2015

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, University of Kansas geologists have unraveled one of the geologic mysteries of Tibet. The research, recently published online in Nature Geoscience, shows that i ...

Image: Greenland's Leidy Glacier

Jan 23, 2015

Located in the northwest corner of Greenland, Leidy Glacier is fed by ice from the Academy Glacier (upstream and inland). As Leidy approaches the sea, it is diverted around the tip of an island that separates ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.