The State Column | Tuesday, March 13, 2012
A volcano on the island of Santorini in Greece seems to be a bit restless, according to scientists studying the latest data. Monitoring stations on the island indicate the Santorini caldera is awake again and rapidly deforming, said Georgia Tech researcher Andrew Newman.
“After decades of little activity, a series of earthquakes and deformation began within the Santorini caldera in January of 2011,” Mr. Newman said. “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,” he added.
The volcano, if it should erupt, could possibly present Greeks with tsunamis, say experts. The chamber has expanded by nearly 500 million cubic feet since last January, and could force delays in cruise lines navigating the area.
Scientist warn that the growing caldera could damage ports and disrupt ship traffic. Even if the volcano does not erupt, the shifting caldera could increase earthquake risk, and the island cliffs are vulnerable.
Unlike a 2010 volcano in Greenland that shut down flight between the U.S. and Europe, the Greek volcano would likely not cause widespread flight delays, saving European airlines from one extra headache.
An eruption for the nation of Greece is the last thing the indebted nation would likely hope to face. Greek lawmakers are currently considering a number of austerity measures in an effort to meet conditions set by the International Monetary Fund and other institutions involved with providing financial aid for the nation.
Greece’s second bailout package can make its debt sustainable, however Athens will have to stick firmly to agreed policies until 2030 and may need more money after 2014, according to lenders. In the event of a massive eruption, it remains unclear how Greek officials would handle the issue, considering funding for addressing the issue remain tightly attached to preconditions.
More than 50,000 tourists a day flock to Santorini in the summer months (from May to October). It’s common to see as many as five cruise ships floating above the volcano. An eruption would likely result in a dip in tourism to the island, and to the nation in general.
Santorini is the site of one of the largest volcanic events in human history. The Minoan eruption, which occurred around 1650 B.C., buried the major port city of Akrotiri with more than 20 meters of ash and created Santorini’s famous, present-day cliffs.
If a Santorini eruption did occur, Mr. Newman said, it would be nothing like the Minoan eruption of 1650 B.C. that birthed the myth of Atlantis. That eruption was a once-in-100,000-year event, and the expansion of the magma chamber happening now is only 1 percent of what would have gone on prior to the ancient blast.