Volcanoes under 24-hour watch

Three-and-a-half-thousand years after the massive eruption of the Santorini volcano, which is believed to have contributed to the fall of the impressive Minoan civilization on Crete, scientists closely monitoring the area are now in a position to give up to three months’ warning of new volcanic activity. «If the process of activation starts, we will know two or three months before a potential eruption,» said Michalis Fytikas, a professor of geology at Thessaloniki University who is part of the team of six experts monitoring the Santorini volcanoes. According to a paper the team will present at the Fifth International Conference on the Geology of the Eastern Mediterranean, which opened in Thessaloniki yesterday, both volcanoes located in the sea just off the Cycladic island are kept under 24-hour observation. Scientists use sensitive monitoring equipment whose findings are relayed by satellite to Thessaloniki University laboratories. The volcano fingered by many archaeologists as responsible for the demise of Minoan power – on an islet in the spectacular caldera left by an old eruption – is now considered dormant, having last erupted in 1950. The second volcano – named Koloumbos – in the sea 8 kilometers (5 miles) northeast of Santorini, provides regular, albeit muted signs of life. It last erupted in 1650, in a dramatic event of which vivid historic accounts have survived. «The central volcano in the caldera is completely dormant,» Fytikas said. «Koloumbos presents some minor action, which under no circumstances can be regarded as a source of concern.» This translates into one or two miniscule tremors of 0.5 to 1 on the Richter scale, on a daily basis.

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