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The active volcano of Santorini

11 September 2012 / 13:09:26  GRReporter
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About 10-20 million cubic metres of magma have been accumulating beneath the volcano of Santorini for about 15 months now, scientists from Oxford University reported, cited by Nature Geoscience journal. The magma has increased from January 2011 to March 2012 and is fifteen times larger in volume than the Olympic Stadium in London. The accumulation of magma is equivalent to 10 – 20 years of development of the volcano and the changes beneath have led to surface deformations of 8-14 cm in some areas. Greek scientists in turn report that the data from April 2012 are encouraging. The intense seismic activity is subsiding and the surface deformation in the area is not increasing.

"Over 120 earthquakes greater than 0.5 on the Richter scale were detected in Santorini in January 2012. There were only 25 in February whereas there were only 15 earthquakes of this magnitude in March. In April, these rates were between two and four," the head of the National Scientific Committee for the Monitoring of Santorini Volcano Kosmas Stylianidis told Ethnos. Scientists from different universities study the volcanic island. Oxford University professor Michael Parks heads the international team. He collaborates with colleagues from the Universities of Athens, Bristol, and the National Technical University in Athens. Different sensors and GPS devices are used for the measurements.

The results of the study show that the activity of the volcano in 2011 was the most dynamic of the last 60 -70 years. The last detected eruptions were in 1925, 1939 and 1950. "The data clearly show that the new volcanic inflation is the only significant development after the eruption during 1939-1941 and a little later," Greek scientists said. They are adamant that if the process had continued, the volume of molten rock would have reached the levels of previous eruptions. Scientists explain that a similar volume of magma accumulated in active volcanoes does not cause eruptions, but there are exceptions such as Montserrat volcano in the Caribbean Sea. However, scientists believe that there is no cause for concern for the time being.

"The volcano had really inflated in the period from the beginning of 2011 to early 2012, which the Oxford study covers. Things have changed from April until today, however," Stylianidis stressed. The same opinion is shared by his counterpart George Vouyouklakis, "The phenomenon emerged in January last year and began to subside in February 2012. We are gradually getting back to normal." In the last 20 years, the volcano code was "green," meaning that it was in a dormant state. In 2011, its code was "yellow" - strong seismic activity was detected as well as surface deformation, changes in the chemical composition and temperature of the fluid produced in the volcano. These processes are currently subsiding. Vouyouklakis said that some of the magma, about 15 cubic metres, has been shifting to more shallow soil layers near the surface. It reached about four kilometres from the surface of the earth in the northern region of Nea Kameni and caused some changes. However, there is no cause for concern so far, that hot lava may sweep over the beautiful island of Santorini.

Tags: NewsSantoriniVolcanoMagmaSeismicity
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