From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published September 10, 2012 05:52 AM

Volcano on Santorini hasn't had a major Eruption in more than 3,000 years so what's going on now?

The dormant volcano on the Greek island of Santorini has not had a major eruption for more than 3,000 years, but in the last year, scientists have noticed increased sub-surface activity that could be pointing to one in the future. The question everyone is asking is, if this is possible, how soon might it happen? Scientists at the University of Bristol have been studying the clues.

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The chamber of molten rock beneath Santorini's volcano expanded 10-20 million cubic metres — up to 15 times the size of London’s Olympic Stadium — between January 2011 and April 2012, according to a new survey carried out by an international team led by Oxford University and including a scientist from the University of Bristol. The research is reported in this week's Nature Geoscience.

The growth of this 'balloon' of magma has seen the surface of the island rise 8-14 centimetres during this period, the researchers found. The results come from an expedition, funded by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council, which used satellite radar images and Global Positioning System receivers (GPS) that can detect movements of the Earth’s surface of just a few millimetres.

The findings are helping scientists to understand more about the inner workings of the volcano which had its last major explosive eruption 3,600 years ago, burying the islands of Santorini under metres of pumice. However, it still does not provide an answer to the biggest question of all: 'When will the volcano next erupt?'

In January 2011, a series of small earthquakes began beneath the islands of Santorini. Most were so small they could only be detected with sensitive seismometers but it was the first sign of activity beneath the volcano to be detected for 25 years.

Following the earthquakes Michelle Parks, an Oxford University DPhil student, spotted signs of movement of the Earth's surface on Santorini in satellite radar images. Oxford University undergraduate students then helped researchers complete a new survey of the island.

Blue Domed Church in Santorini Overlooking the Volcanic Rim photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at Bristol University.

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