The team from Durham University and the University of Leeds, studied crystal formation from the volcano of the Cycladic island Santorini, to calculate the timescale between the trigger of volcanic activity and the volcano's eruption. According to the scientists, the technique can be applied to other volcanoes, such as Vesuvius in Italy, in order to help the decisions of civil defense agencies.
The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), was recently published in the journal Science. The scientists searched crystals from the 1925-28 eruption of Nea Kameni, in Santorini. Lead author Dr Victoria Martin, of Durham University, showed that the crystal rims reacted with molten rock, or magma, as it moved into the volcano's shallow chamber prior to eruption. This process is thought to be associated with shallow level earthquake activity, as shown by modern volcano monitoring.
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.