Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Eruptive activity of the Santorini Volcano controlled by sea-level rise and fall

Abstract

Sea-level change is thought to influence the frequencies of volcanic eruptions on glacial to interglacial timescales. However, the underlying physical processes and their importance relative to other influences (for example, magma recharge rates) remain poorly understood. Here we compare an approximately 360-kyr-long record of effusive and explosive eruptions from the flooded caldera volcano at Santorini (Greece) with a high-resolution sea-level record spanning the last four glacial–interglacial cycles. Numerical modelling shows that when the sea level falls by 40 m below the present-day level, the induced tensile stresses in the roof of the magma chamber of Santorini trigger dyke injections. As the sea level continues to fall to −70 or −80 m, the induced tensile stress spreads throughout the roof so that some dykes reach the surface to feed eruptions. Similarly, the volcanic activity gradually disappears after the sea level rises above −40 m. Synchronizing Santorini’s stratigraphy with the sea-level record using tephra layers in marine sediment cores shows that 208 out of 211 eruptions (both effusive and explosive) occurred during periods constrained by sea-level falls (below −40 m) and subsequent rises, suggesting a strong absolute sea-level control on the timing of eruptions on Santorini—a result that probably applies to many other volcanic islands around the world.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Stratigraphy and eruption chronology of Santorini from ~360 ka to the present.
Fig. 2: Numerical model of the increase in tensile stress around Santorini’s shallow magma chamber induced by sea-level fall.
Fig. 3: Schematic representation of the effect of sea-level-induced tensile stress spreading on the propagation of dykes at Santorini Volcano.
Fig. 4: Santorini’s eruptive stratigraphy aligned with absolute sea level.

Data availability

The datasets used in this paper are available via Zenodo at https://zenodo.org/record/5011687#.YNxRJBNKhhE.

References

  1. 1.

    Matthews, R. K. Tectonic implications of glacio-eustatic sea-level fluctuations. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 5, 459–462 (1969).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Rampino, M. R., Self, S. & Fairbridge, R. W. Can rapid climate change cause volcanic eruptions? Science 206, 826–828 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Paterne, M. & Guichard, F. Triggering of volcanic pulses in the Campanian area, South Italy, by periodic deep magma influx. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 1861–1873 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Mason, B. G., Pyle, D. M., Dade, W. B. & Jupp, T. Seasonality of volcanic eruptions. J. Geophys. Res. 109, B04206 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Gudmundsson, A. Mechanical aspects of postglacial volcanism and tectonics of the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest Iceland. J. Geophys. Res. 91, 12711–12721 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Jull, M. & McKenzie, D. The effect of deglaciation on mantle melting beneath Iceland. J. Geophys. Res. 101, 21815–21828 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Jellinek, M. A., Manga, M. & Saar, M. Did melting glaciers cause volcanic eruptions in eastern California? Probing the mechanics of dike formation. J. Geophys. Res. https://doi.org/10.1029/2004JB002978 (2004).

  8. 8.

    Nowell, D. A. G., Jones, M. C. & Pyle, D. M. Episodic Quaternary volcanism in France and Germany. J. Quat. Sci. 21, 645–675 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Watt, S. F. L., Pyle, D. M. & Mather, T. A. The volcanic response to deglaciation: evidence from glaciated arcs and a reassessment of global eruption records. Earth Sci. Rev. 122, 77–102 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Andrew, R. E. B. & Gudmundsson, A. Distribution, structure, and formation of Holocene lava shields in Iceland. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 168, 137–154 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Rawson, H. et al. The magmatic and eruptive response of arc volcanoes to deglaciation: insights from southern Chile. Geology 44, 251–254 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    McGuire, W. J. et al. Correlation between rate of sea-level change and frequency of explosive volcanism in the Mediterranean. Nature 389, 473–476 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Kutterolf, S. et al. A detection of Milankovitch frequencies in global volcanic activity. Geology https://doi.org/10.1130/G33419.1 (2012).

  14. 14.

    Kutterolf, S., Shindlbeck, J. C., Jegen, M., Freundt, A. & Straub, S. M. Milankovitch frequencies in tephra records at volcanic arcs: the relation of kyr-scale cyclic variations in volcanism to global climate changes. Quart. Sci. Rev. 204, 1–16 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Schindlbeck, J. C. et al. 100 kyr cyclicity in volcanic ash emplacement: evidence from a 1.1 Myr tephra record from the NW Pacific. Sci. Rep. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22595-0 (2018).

  16. 16.

    Stewart, I. S. Did sea-level change cause the switch from fissure-type to central-type volcanism at Mount Etna. Sicily? Epis. 41, 7–16 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Sternai, P. et al. Magmatic pulse driven by sea-level changes associated with the Messinian salinity crisis. Nat. Geosci. https://doi.org/10.1038/NGEO3032 (2017).

  18. 18.

    Druitt, T. H., Mellors, R. A., Pyle, D. M. & Sparks, R. S. J. Explosive volcanism on Santorini, Greece. Geol. Mag. 126, 95–126 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Druitt, T. H., Pyle, D. M. & Mather, T. A. Santorini Volcano and its Plumbing System. Elements 15, 177–184 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Satow et al. Detection and Characterisation of Eemian Marine Tephra Layers within the Sapropel S5 1 Sediments of the Aegean and Levantine Seas. Quaternary https://doi.org/10.3390/quat3010006 (2020)

  21. 21.

    Satow, C. et al. A new contribution to the Late Quaternary tephrostratigraphy of the Mediterranean; Aegean Sea core LC21. Quart. Sci. Rev. 117, 96–112 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Wulf, S. et al. Advancing Santorini’s tephrostratigraphy: new glass geochemical data and improved marine-terrestrial tephra correlations for the past 360 kyrs. Earth Sci. Rev. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.102964 (2020).

  23. 23.

    Grant, K. M. et al. Rapid coupling between ice volume and polar temperature over the past 150,000 years. Nature 491, 744–747 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Grant, K. M. et al. Sea-level variability over 5 glacial cycles. Nat. Commun. 5, 5076 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Druitt, T. H. et al. Santorini Volcano Memoir 19 (Geological Society of London, 1999).

  26. 26.

    Druitt, T. H., Costa, F., Deloule, E., Dungan, M. & Scaillet, B. Decadal to monthly timescales of magma transfer and reservoir growth at a caldera volcano. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10706 (2012).

  27. 27.

    Nomikou, P. et al. Post-eruptive flooding of Santorini caldera and implications for tsunami generation. Nat. Commun. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13332 (2016).

  28. 28.

    Browning, J., Drymoni, K. & Gudmundsson, A. Forecasting magma chamber rupture at the Santorini Volcano, Greece. Sci. Rep. 5, 15785 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Fabbro, G. N., Druitt, T. H. & Costa, F. Storage and eruption of silicic magma across the transition from dominantly effusive to caldera-forming states at an arc volcano (Santorini, Greece). J. Petrol. 58, 2429–2464 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Wallman, P., Mahood, G. A. & Pollard, D. D. Mechanical models for correlation of ring fracture eruptions at Pantelleria, Strait of Sicily, with glacial sea-level drawdown. Bull. Volcanol. 50, 327–339 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Parks, M. M. et al. Evolution of Santorini Volcano dominated by episodic and rapid fluxes of melt from depth. Nat. Geosci. 5, 749–754 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Hooft, E. E. E. et al. Seismic imaging of Santorini: subsurface constraints on caldera collapse and present-day magma recharge. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 514, 48–61 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Druitt, T. H. et al. Magma storage and extraction associated with Plinian and interplinian activity and Santorini Caldera (Greece). J. Petrol. 57, 461–494 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Parks, M. M. et al. From quiescence to unrest—20 years of satellite geodetic measurements at Santorini volcano, Greece. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 120, 1309–1328 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    McVey, B. G. et al. Magma accumulation beneath Santorini volcano, Greece, from P-wave tomography. Geology 48, 231–235 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Gudmundsson, A. Rock Fractures in Geological Processes (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011).

  37. 37.

    Gudmundsson, A. Volcanotectonics: Understanding the Structure, Deformation and Dynamics of Volcanoes (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2020).

  38. 38.

    Dzurisin, D. Volcano Deformation: New Geodetic Monitoring Techniques (Springer, 2006).

  39. 39.

    Segall, P. Earthquake and Volcano Deformation (Princeton Univ. Press, 2010).

  40. 40.

    Gudmundsson, A. Emplacement and arrest of dykes and sheets in central volcanoes. J. Volanol. Geotherm. Res. 116, 279–298 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Newman, A.V. et al. Recent geodetic unrest at Santorini Caldera, Greece. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, https://doi.org/10.1029/2012GL051286 (2012).

  42. 42.

    Parks, M. M. et al. Distinguishing contributions to diffuse CO2 emissions in volcanic areas from magmatic degassing and thermal decarbonation using soil gas 222Rn-δ13C systematics: application to Santorini volcano, Greece. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 377–378, 180–190 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Karátson, D. et al. Towards reconstruction of the lost Late Bronze Age intra-caldera island of Santorini, Greece. Sci. Rep. 8, 7026 (2018).

  44. 44.

    Vakhrameeva, P. et al. The cryptotephra record of the Marine Isotope Stage 12 to 10 interval (460-335 ka) at Tenaghi Philippon, Greece: exploring chronological markers for the Middle Pleistocene of the Mediterranean region. Quat. Sci. Rev. 200, 313–333 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Edwards, L. Magma Cyclicity and Isotopic Variation on Santorini Volcano, Aegean Sea, Greece. PhD thesis, Univ. Bristol (1994).

  46. 46.

    Vespa, M., Keller, J. & Gertisser, R. Interplinian explosive activity of Santorini volcano (Greece) during the past 150,000 years. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 153, 262–286 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Fabbro, G., Druitt, T. H. & Scaillet, S. Evolution of the crustal magma plumbing system during the build-up to the 22-ka caldera forming eruption of Santorini (Greece). Bull. Volcanol. 75, 767 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Huijsmans, J. P. P. & Barton, M. Volcanoes from Santorini, Aegean Sea, Greece: evidence for zoned magma chambers from cyclic compositional variations. J. Petrol. 30, 583–625 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Manning, S. W. et al. Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700-1400 B.C. Science 312, 565–569 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Vakhrameeva, P. et al. Eastern Mediterranean volcanism during Marine Isotope Stages 9 to 7e (335–235 ka): insights based on cryptotephra layers at Tenaghi Philippon, Greece. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 380, 31–47 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Bronk Ramsey, C. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51, 337–360 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Bronk Ramsey, C. Methods for summarizing radiocarbon datasets. Radiocarbon 59, 1809–1833 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Simmons, J. M., Cas, R. A. F., Druitt, T. H., & Carey, R. J. The initiation and development of a caldera-forming Plinian eruption (172 ka Lower Pumice 2 eruption, Santorini, (Greece). J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.05.034 (2017).

  54. 54.

    Gertisser, R. & Wiltshire, R. Explosive volcanic activity during the evolution of the Skaros lava shield, Santorini, Greece. In Millenia of Stratification between Human Life and Volcanoes: strategies for coexistence (eds Corsaro, R. A. et al.) 349–350 (INGV, 2018).

  55. 55.

    Vaggelli, G., Pellegrini, M., Vougioukalakis, G., Innocenti, S. & Francalanci, L. Highly Sr radiogenic tholeiitic magmas in the latest inter-Plinian activity of Santorini volcano, Greece. J. Geophys. Res. 114, B06201 (2009).

  56. 56.

    Quidelleur, X., Hildenbrand, A. & Samper, A. Causal link between Quaternary paleoclimatic changes and volcanic islands evolution. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L02303 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

C.B.R. received funding from NERC in support of the NERC Isotope Facility. D.M.P. acknowledges support from the NERC Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tectonics (COMET). M.B. acknowledges financial support from the Swedish Research Council (grant number 2018-03414) and the Weld On Sweden Research and Development Section.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

C.S. designed the study, co-compiled the eruption counts, co-wrote the paper and co-produced Figs. 2 and 4 and Supplementary Figs. 2 and 3. A.G. led the numerical modelling, co-wrote the paper and produced Fig. 3. R.G. wrote the Methods sections on stratigraphy, produced Fig. 1 and co-complied the eruption counts. C.B.R. undertook the age modelling and produced the KDE plots (Fig. 4 and Supplementary Fig. 3). D.M.P. co-wrote the paper and advised on hazards information. M.B. undertook the numerical modelling and co-produced Fig. 2 and Supplementary Fig. 2. S.W. advised on eruption dates and the tephrostratigraphy of Santorini, and produced Supplementary Fig. 1. A.J.M. conducted an internal review of the paper, contributed to the project design and edited the final submission. M.H. co-produced Fig. 4 and Supplementary Fig. 3, and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chris Satow.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Geoscience thanks Emilie Hooft and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–3 and Tables 1 and 2.

Supplementary Data 1

This .txt file contains the compiled eruption record, which can be uploaded into Oxcal to produce the KDEs included in the paper.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Satow, C., Gudmundsson, A., Gertisser, R. et al. Eruptive activity of the Santorini Volcano controlled by sea-level rise and fall. Nat. Geosci. 14, 586–592 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00783-4

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing