Listen up muppet masters - if you have put in a bid for that Greek jewel of Santorini on Ebay, it may be time to quietly withdraw from the auction. Because according to Georgia Tech, things may get rather shaky soon. Literally: "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.” Because the only thing that Greece, whose primary business is tourism, needs, is for the biggest Cyclades tourist attraction to go up in a pyroclastic cloud.
Newman, a geophysicist in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 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.”
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.
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. Newman says such history will likely not repeat itself any time soon. Such an eruption comes along once every 100,000 years, and the current inflation in the magma chamber is less than 1 percent of the Minoan blast.
An animation of Newman's GPS stations and the angles of movement is shown below.