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By Climatologist Cliff Harris

Article published on April 12, 2012

As if the Greeks don’t have enough to worry about with their shattered economy, there are deep concerns now of a looming major volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini, a prime tourist mecca, according to our friend, Bob Felix, of www.iceagenow.info in his latest edition of his newsletter. Here’s what Bob says:

The Greek Island of Santorini is a tourist magnet famous for its breathtaking, cliff side views and sunsets. In 2011, the British Broadcasting Company named this picturesque island the world’s best island. Located in the Aegean Sea, 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 beneath more than 65 feet (20 meters) of ash and created Santorini’s famous, present-day cliffs.

Sixty-five feet. That’s the height of a five-story building. Volcanic activity on Santorini has been relatively calm since its last eruption in 1950, until now. "The Santorini caldera is awake again and rapidly deforming at levels never seen before," says this press release from Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech Associate Professor Andrew Newman has studied Santorini since setting up more than 20 GPS stations on the island in 2006.

"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."

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.

Randy Mann and I have mentioned that a massive, high altitude volcanic eruption, similar to Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in June of 1991, could result in global cooling for perhaps several years. As usual, only time will tell. But, anything can happen.

Mr. Felix likewise mentioned that there has been an eruption off the Oregon coastline of an undersea volcano, which has spewed forth a layer of lava "more than 12 feet thick in places." This eruption, approximately 250 miles west of Newport, Oregon, has opened up many new deep vents in the sea floor that are currently belching forth "a cloudy stew of hot water and billions of microbes from deep inside the earth."

Bob adds, "do you suppose that lakes of lava more than a mile across might heat the water a tad?" Think about it...