Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Santorini


Historian Ammianus Marcellinus documented the devastating effects of a tsunami hitting Alexandria, Egypt, on July 21, AD 365. “The solidity of the earth was made to shake … and the sea was driven away. The waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning. Huge ships… perched on the roofs of houses… hurled miles from the shore….”. Other settlements around the Mediterranean were hit at roughly the same time. This scenario is similar to that of the recent Sumatra and Tohoku tsunamis. Based on geophysical surveys and sediment cores from the Ionian Sea we show that the 20-25 m thick megaturbidite known in the literature as Homogenite/Augias was triggered not by the Santorini caldera collapse but by the 365 AD Cretan earthquake/tsunami. An older similar megaturbidite was deposited after 14.590 ± 80 yr BP, implying a large recurrence time of such extreme sedimentary events in the Mediterranean Sea.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Italy, Alexandria, Tsunami, Greece, Santorini, 365 Crete earthquake, Ammianus Marcellinus


Caldera-forming eruptions of island volcanoes generate tsunamis by the interaction of different eruptive phenomena with the sea. Such tsunamis are a major hazard, but forward models of their impacts are limited by poor understanding of source mechanisms. The caldera-forming eruption of Santorini in the Late Bronze Age is known to have been tsunamigenic, and caldera collapse has been proposed as a mechanism. Here, we present bathymetric and seismic evidence showing that the caldera was not open to the sea during the main phase of the eruption, but was flooded once the eruption had finished. Inflow of water and associated landsliding cut a deep, 2.0-2.5 km(3), submarine channel, thus filling the caldera in less than a couple of days. If, as at most such volcanoes, caldera collapse occurred syn-eruptively, then it cannot have generated tsunamis. Entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea, combined with slumping of submarine pyroclastic accumulations, were the main mechanisms of tsunami production.

Concepts: Volcano, Tsunami, Flood, Bronze Age, Volcanology, Caldera, Santorini, Ignimbrite


Caldera-forming volcanic eruptions are low-frequency, high-impact events capable of discharging tens to thousands of cubic kilometres of magma explosively on timescales of hours to days, with devastating effects on local and global scales. Because no such eruption has been monitored during its long build-up phase, the precursor phenomena are not well understood. Geophysical signals obtained during recent episodes of unrest at calderas such as Yellowstone, USA, and Campi Flegrei, Italy, are difficult to interpret, and the conditions necessary for large eruptions are poorly constrained. Here we present a study of pre-eruptive magmatic processes and their timescales using chemically zoned crystals from the ‘Minoan’ caldera-forming eruption of Santorini volcano, Greece, which occurred in the late 1600s BC. The results provide insights into how rapidly large silicic systems may pass from a quiescent state to one on the edge of eruption. Despite the large volume of erupted magma (40-60 cubic kilometres), and the 18,000-year gestation period between the Minoan eruption and the previous major eruption, most crystals in the Minoan magma record processes that occurred less than about 100 years before the eruption. Recharge of the magma reservoir by large volumes of silicic magma (and some mafic magma) occurred during the century before eruption, and mixing between different silicic magma batches was still taking place during the final months. Final assembly of large silicic magma reservoirs may occur on timescales that are geologically very short by comparison with the preceding repose period, with major growth phases immediately before eruption. These observations have implications for the monitoring of long-dormant, but potentially active, caldera systems.

Concepts: Volcano, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Campi Flegrei, Caldera, Santorini, Volcanic Explosivity Index


Natural CO2 releases from shallow marine hydrothermal vents are assumed to mix into the water column, and not accumulate into stratified seafloor pools. We present newly discovered shallow subsea pools located within the Santorini volcanic caldera of the Southern Aegean Sea, Greece, that accumulate CO2 emissions from geologic reservoirs. This type of hydrothermal seafloor pool, containing highly concentrated CO2, provides direct evidence of shallow benthic CO2 accumulations originating from sub-seafloor releases. Samples taken from within these acidic pools are devoid of calcifying organisms, and channel structures among the pools indicate gravity driven flow, suggesting that seafloor release of CO2 at this site may preferentially impact benthic ecosystems. These naturally occurring seafloor pools may provide a diagnostic indicator of incipient volcanic activity and can serve as an analog for studying CO2 leakage and benthic accumulations from subsea carbon capture and storage sites.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Hydrothermal vent, Volcano, Greece, Caldera, Santorini, Cyclades, Yellowstone Caldera


Attributing a season and a date to the volcanic eruption of Santorini in the Aegean has become possible by using preserved remains of the bean weevil, Bruchus rufipes, pests of pulses, from the storage jars of the West House, in the Bronze Age settlement at Akrotiri. We have applied an improved pre-treatment methodology for dating the charred insects, and this provides a date of 1744-1538 BC. This date is within the range of others obtained from pulses from the same context and confirms the utility of chitin as a dating material. Based on the nature of the insect material and the life cycle of the species involved, we argue for a summer eruption, which took place after harvest, shortly after this material was transported into the West House storeroom.

Concepts: Insect, Ancient Egypt, Volcano, Minoan civilization, Bronze Age, Santorini, Cyclades, Mycenaean Greece


How much magma needs to be added to a shallow magma chamber to cause rupture, dyke injection, and a potential eruption? Models that yield reliable answers to this question are needed in order to facilitate eruption forecasting. Development of a long-lived shallow magma chamber requires periodic influx of magmas from a parental body at depth. This redistribution process does not necessarily cause an eruption but produces a net volume change that can be measured geodetically by inversion techniques. Using continuum-mechanics and fracture-mechanics principles, we calculate the amount of magma contained at shallow depth beneath Santorini volcano, Greece. We demonstrate through structural analysis of dykes exposed within the Santorini caldera, previously published data on the volume of recent eruptions, and geodetic measurements of the 2011-2012 unrest period, that the measured 0.02% increase in volume of Santorini’s shallow magma chamber was associated with magmatic excess pressure increase of around 1.1 MPa. This excess pressure was high enough to bring the chamber roof close to rupture and dyke injection. For volcanoes with known typical extrusion and intrusion (dyke) volumes, the new methodology presented here makes it possible to forecast the conditions for magma-chamber failure and dyke injection at any geodetically well-monitored volcano.

Concepts: Pressure, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Caldera, Santorini


500 years of ancient Near Eastern history from the earlier second millennium BCE, including such pivotal figures as Hammurabi of Babylon, Šamši-Adad I (who conquered Aššur) and Zimrilim of Mari, has long floated in calendar time subject to rival chronological schemes up to 150+ years apart. Texts preserved on clay tablets provide much information, including some astronomical references, but despite 100+ years of scholarly effort, chronological resolution has proved impossible. Documents linked with specific Assyrian officials and rulers have been found and associated with archaeological wood samples at Kültepe and Acemhöyük in Turkey, and offer the potential to resolve this long-running problem. Here we show that previous work using tree-ring dating to place these timbers in absolute time has fundamental problems with key dendrochronological crossdates due to small sample numbers in overlapping years and insufficient critical assessment. To address, we have integrated secure dendrochronological sequences directly with radiocarbon (14C) measurements to achieve tightly resolved absolute (calendar) chronological associations and identify the secure links of this tree-ring chronology with the archaeological-historical evidence. The revised tree-ring-sequenced 14C time-series for Kültepe and Acemhöyük is compatible only with the so-called Middle Chronology and not with the rival High, Low or New Chronologies. This finding provides a robust resolution to a century of uncertainty in Mesopotamian chronology and scholarship, and a secure basis for construction of a coherent timeframe and history across the Near East and East Mediterranean in the earlier second millennium BCE. Our re-dating also affects an unusual tree-ring growth anomaly in wood from Porsuk, Turkey, previously tentatively associated with the Minoan eruption of the Santorini volcano. This tree-ring growth anomaly is now directly dated ~1681-1673 BCE (68.2% highest posterior density range), ~20 years earlier than previous assessments, indicating that it likely has no association with the subsequent Santorini volcanic eruption.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Volcano, Minoan civilization, Mesopotamia, Santorini, Ancient Near East, Minoan eruption


Submarine volcanoes, such as Kolumbo (Santorini, Greece) are natural laboratories for fostering multidisciplinary studies. Their investigation requires the most innovative marine technology together with advanced data analysis. Conductivity and temperature of seawater were recorded directly above Kolumbo’s hydrothermal vent system. The respective time series have been analyzed in terms of non-equilibrium techniques. The energy dissipation of the volcanic activity is monitored by the temperature variations of seawater. The venting dynamics of chemical products is monitored by water conductivity. The analysis of the time series in terms of stochastic processes delivers scaling exponents with turning points between consecutive regimes for both conductivity and temperature. Changes of conductivity are shown to behave as a universal multifractal and their variance is subdiffusive as the scaling exponents indicate. Temperature is constant over volcanic rest periods and a universal multifractal behavior describes its changes in line with a subdiffusive character otherwise. The universal multifractal description illustrates the presence of non-conservative conductivity and temperature fields showing that the system never retains a real equilibrium state. The existence of a repeated pattern of the combined effect of both seawater and volcanic activity is predicted. The findings can shed light on the dynamics of chemical products emitted from the vents and point to the presence of underlying mechanisms that govern potentially hazardous, underwater volcanic environments.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Water, Thermodynamics, Hydrothermal vent, Volcano, Santorini, Cyclades, Submarine volcano


The role of volcanogenic halogen-bearing (i.e. chlorine and bromine) compounds in stratospheric ozone chemistry and climate forcing is poorly constrained. While the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo resulted in stratospheric ozone loss, it was due to heterogeneous chemistry on volcanic sulfate aerosols involving chlorine of anthropogenic rather than volcanogenic origin, since co-erupted chlorine was scavenged within the plume. Therefore, it is not known what effect volcanism had on ozone in pre-industrial times, nor what will be its role on future atmospheres with reduced anthropogenic halogens present. By combining petrologic constraints on eruption volatile yields with a global atmospheric chemistry-transport model, we show here that the Bronze-Age ‘Minoan’ eruption of Santorini Volcano released far more halogens than sulfur and that, even if only 2% of these halogens reached the stratosphere, it would have resulted in strong global ozone depletion. The model predicts reductions in ozone columns of 20 to >90% at Northern high latitudes and an ozone recovery taking up to a decade. Our findings emphasise the significance of volcanic halogens for stratosphere chemistry and suggest that modelling of past and future volcanic impacts on Earth’s ozone, climate and ecosystems should systematically consider volcanic halogen emissions in addition to sulfur emissions.

Concepts: Earth, Atmosphere, Chlorine, Ozone depletion, Volcano, Ozone layer, Ozone, Santorini


The spice saffron is made from the dried stigmas of the plant Crocus sativus L. The main use of saffron is in cooking, due to its ability to impart colour, flavour and aroma to foods and beverages. However, from time immemorial it has also been considered a medicinal plant because it possesses therapeutic properties, as illustrated in paintings found on the island of Santorini, dated 1627 BC. It is included in Catalogues of Medicinal Plants and in the European Pharmacopoeias, being part of a great number of compounded formulas from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The medicinal and pharmaceutical uses of this plant largely disappeared with the advent of synthetic chemistry-produced drugs. However, in recent years there has been growing interest in demonstrating saffron’s already known bioactivity, which is attributed to the main components-crocetin and its glycosidic esters, called crocins, and safranal-and to the synergy between the compounds present in the spice. The objective of this work was to provide an updated and critical review of the research on the therapeutic properties of saffron, including activity on the nervous and cardiovascular systems, in the liver, its antidepressant, anxiolytic and antineoplastic properties, as well as its potential use as a functional food or nutraceutical.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Nutrition, Food, Herb, Saffron, Crocus, Minoan civilization, Santorini