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By studying the area between the crystal core and the rim the team then worked out how long the rims had existed – revealing how long the magma was in the shallow chamber before it erupted.
The crystals showed the 1925-28 eruption at Nea Kameni took place three to ten weeks after the magma entered the shallow system.
As magma movement typically causes seismic activity, if any future seismic or inflation activity at Nea Kameni can be linked to magma recharge of the volcano, the scientists predict an eruption could follow within a similar timescale.
They hope this method can be applied to other volcanoes, allowing the pre-eruption behaviour to be better understood - and understanding of volcanoes to be extended back further in time.
Since January 2011, earthquakes have shaken the landscape and the Santorini volcano’s surface has lifted by about 140 millimeters
Seismic activity in Santorini, such as the underground movement of magma, from January 2011 to today has caused ground deformation that was detected by Envisat’s radar.
Even from an orbit about 800 km above the ground, deformations of a few centimetres can be detected by satellite radars.
When two or more radar images of the same area are combined, changes in signal reflections between them can be measured. This technique called Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar – or DInSAR – has become a useful tool for detecting ground deformation.
Envisat shows that the northeastern part of Santorini’s Nea Kameni volcano experienced an uplift of about 5 cm in 2011, while other areas of the volcano rose some 3–4 cm.
"Monitoring to detect any change of the status of the volcano presents a further step towards the understanding of physical processes related to volcanic eruptions that can lead to natural disasters," said Prof. Issaak Parcharidis from the Department of Geography at the Harokopio University of Athens.
During the first months of this year, Santorini saw a drop in the speed of deformation, accompanied by a reduction in seismic activity.
"After evaluation of local seismic activity, deformation and physicochemical changes, [we] concluded that during the last months the volcano presents a very limited activity, much lower than that of 2011," said Prof. Kosmas Stylianidis, Head of the Special Scientific Committee for the Monitoring of Santorini Volcano.
Contact with Envisat was lost on 8 April
We're concerned especially about those magma movements