The Santorini volcano caldera is awake again and rapidly deforming

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
By Paul Martin

BY ADONAI
TheWatchers.com
APRIL 18, 2012

Santorini is a volcanic island that has been relatively calm since its last eruption in 1950. But, its caldera is awake again and rapidly deforming at levels never seen before. Georgia Tech Associate Professor Andrew Newman has studied Santorini since setting up more than 20 GPS stations on the island in 2006.

“After decades of little activity, a series of earthquakes and deformation began within the Santorini caldera in January of 2011,” said Newman, whose research is published by Geophysical Research Letters. “Since then, our instruments on the northern part of the island have moved laterally between five and nine centimeters. The volcano’s magma chamber is filling, and we are keeping a close eye on its activity.”

Newman cannot be certain whether an eruption is imminent since observations of such activity on these types of volcanoes are limited. In fact, similar calderas around the globe have shown comparable activity without erupting. However, Newman says the chamber has expanded by 14 million cubic meters since last January. That means enough magma has been pumped into the chamber to fill a sphere three football fields across.

Should Santorini erupt, Newman says it will likely be comparable to what the island has seen in the last 450 years.

“That could be dangerous,” notes Newman. “If the caldera erupts underwater, it could cause local tsunamis and affect boat traffic, including cruise ships, in the caldera. Earthquakes could damage homes and produce landslides along the cliffs.”

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