Researchers monitor volcanic activity at Santorini
Richard Monastersky, Nature News, 20-07-2012
As tourists gambol around the Greek islands this summer, an international team of geoscientists is embarking on a research cruise to deploy instruments on the sea floor near one of the region’s most famous holiday destinations, Santorini. The team hopes to keep tabs on a massive volcano there that showed signs of unrest last year. “We want to see if there is any deformation of the sea floor, which may be related to possible [volcanic] inflation of the area,” says geologist Dimitris Sakellariou, from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) in Anavyssos, near Athens, who is the cruise leader.
The Santorini caldera is a mostly submerged volcanic crater, with raised edges that form a picturesque arc of islands in the southern Aegean Sea. The arc is all that remains of an island, the centre of which collapsed during an eruption tens of thousands of years ago. In about 1650 bc, the volcano unleashed a series of massive eruptions that many blame for bringing down the Minoan civilization, which was centred on nearby Crete.The largest submerged caldera in the world, Santorini last erupted in 1950 and had been relatively quiet until early 2011, when small earthquakes started to rattle the islands. The region remained fitful throughout 2011, and measurements using the Global Positioning System (GPS) revealed that the eastern and western edges of the caldera had spread apart by 14 centimetres between January 2011 and January this year. Although the earthquake activity died down early in 2012, the sudden changes have left researchers unsure whether the volcano is resuming its slumber or preparing for a future blast.