Santorini locals began to suspect last year that something was afoot with the volcano under their Greek island group. Wine glasses occasionally vibrated and clinked in cafes, suggesting tiny tremors, and tour guides smelled strange gasses.
Now satellite radar technology has revealed the source of the symptoms. A rush of molten rock swelled the magma chamber under the volcano by some 13 to 26 million cubic yards (10 to 20 million cubic meters)—about 15 times the volume of London’s Olympic Stadium—between January 2011 and April 2012. The ballooning chamber even forced parts of the island’s surface to rise upward and outward by 3 to 5.5 inches (8 to 14 centimeters).
The volcano has been quiet for 60 years, and these recent events don’t indicate an imminent eruption, said geologist Nomikou Paraskevi of the University of Athens.
“It is a reminder that Santorini is an active volcano. It’s just that it is currently in a generally quiet state,” she said.
“Since the earthquake activity and the rate of bulging have both slowed right down in the last few months, it doesn’t look as though the volcano is about to start to erupt, and it is quite likely that it could remain quiet for another few years or decades. We simply don’t know enough about the lifecycle of large volcanoes in between eruptions to be certain, which is why the new research we are reporting is interesting.”
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