Earth Science course



Geographical region

The island of Santorini is a Cyclades island found roughly 200KM to the southeast of the mainland of Greece (Pyle, 1997). It is located within the Aegean Sea and is roughly an area of 70Km2 which is about 28 square miles. The island is also inhibited by a population of about 20,000 people and has a volcanic eruption of around 500 Kilometers long and all were killed in that eruption (Canadian Museum of History, 2017).  The main activity in this island involves tourism and the growing of grapes such as Athiri and Mandilaria.

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The Thera eruption

The Thera eruption has however seen the island face massive loses especially in terms of human life and property (Rabinovich et al., 2017). The vulcanization of the island was due to the Hellenic Trench Subduction Zone that is southwest of the Crete (Novikova, Papadopoulos & McCoy, 2011). This is because the oceanic crust located in the northern region of the African Plate gets subducted due to the formation of the Hellenic arc which has Santorini Island as part of its volcanic centers (Cherubini et al., 2014).  The volcanic eruptions caused by these factors led to the creation of constant shield eruptions and the collapse of adjusting volcanoes such as the Caldera, Thera, Kameni, Aspronisi, and Palea.

Effects of Thera eruptions

The Thera eruptions are among the most catastrophic eruptions in the globe considering the fact that it erupted releasing the energy rate of at least a hundred atomic bombs (Antonopoulos, 1992). This means that the eruption had a hundred times more efficient than what a singular atomic bomb is capable of (Cherubini et al., 2014). The eruptions have been rated more catastrophic than both the 1883 eruptions in Krakatoa and Indonesia (Whipps, 2008).

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Thera eruptions definitely had led to both short-term and long-term effects. The immediate effect was the destruction of part of the Santorini Island due to eruptions directly from the volcano (Cherubini et al., 2014). The aftermath of the eruption also led to the constant rise in the number of colossal tsunamis of about 40 feet experienced within the island region (Novikova, Papadopoulos & McCoy, 2011).  These tsunamis led to the death of about 40,000 individuals both inhabitants and tourists (Cadoux et al., 2015). This was due to the massive flooding caused by the dropped global temperatures caused by the high amounts of Sulphur dioxide gas in the air produced during vulcanization (Cadoux et al., 2015). The floods swamped the island villages and naval fleet hence leading to the loss of both life and property (Friedrich et al., 2006).

The Thera eruption also had long-term effects. These are the effects that even though not felt immediately, were caused by the occurrence of the eruption. These effects are actually the most questioned effects by geologists and other scientists (Antonopoulos, 1992). For instance, the claim that the eruptions lead to the decline of the Minoan civilization has been highly contested on the basis that the civilization had begun to deteriorate long before the Thera eruptions had begun (Minoan Civilization, 2017). Other long-term effects of the Thera eruptions include the decline of a bureaucratic means of governance around the region to pave the way to a warring State system (Cadoux et al., 2015). Another factor that seems to be among hot debates of scientists to whether or not such an effect is a direct effect of the eruption considering the fact that the eruption is a scientific matter whereby the effect it is being related with is majorly socio-political (Antonopoulos, 1992).

Aim of the report

  • To create awareness on the effects of the Thera eruptions.
  • To look into debates on what was or was not caused by the Thera eruptions



Vulcanization is a chemical process that occurs when redox systems and light effect conditions are favorable for the eruption of volcanic eruptions such as lava, tephra, and assorted gases through a volcanic vent or fissure (Pyle, 1997). Whereas some volcanoes tend to experience one type of eruptions, others tend to undergo a whole sequence of eruptive series. Vulcanization can cause three types of eruptions namely, magmatic eruptions whereby decompressed gas within magma gets propelled forward (Campbell, 2015). Another type of eruption is the Phreatomagmatic eruptions whereby compressed gas within magma thus powering magmatic activities (Eastwood et al., 2002). The last type of eruption is the phreatic eruption caused by a mixture of superheated steam and magma reaction. These eruptions mostly lead to the rock granulation. In the case of Santorini, an eruption was experienced however rather than the granulation of rocks (Rabinovich et al., 2017). The Santorini volcano is referred to as a Caldera because it erupted so violently that is sunk in on itself and forming a huge crater. Santorini is an island in the Aegean Sea 200km away from the mainland of Greece (Fagan & Scarre, 2016).  It’s the largest island in its surrounding archipelago around the Thira region. Thera, on the other hand, is an antique city with settlements as early as the 5th millennium BC (Novikova, Papadopoulos & McCoy, 2011).


A tsunami is a tidal or seismic wave that caused by the displacement of a very large volume of water in an ocean, lake or sea. They usually are caused by earthquakes and violent volcanic eruptions that occur under a large mass of the water body (Rabinovich et al., 2017). The height of the tsunamis builds up, however, as the water waves travel inland because the depth of the ocean begins to reduce as the heights of tsunamis keep rising (Friedrich et al., 2006). The depth of waterbodies determines the speed and strength in which the tsunamis travel – the deeper the water body the faster the speed of the tsunami is capable of becoming (Setiawan et al., 2017). This explains the reason why the tsunamis in the Thera region were as high as ten feet because the depth of the waters of the island was very deep (LaMoreaux, 1995).

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Effects of vulcanization and tsunamis


Vulcanization leads to the creation of a sulphuric main chain modifications and the formation of Zinc Sulphide that gets released into the atmosphere (Forni et al., 2014). This factor, for instance, led to very low temperatures that caused rainy summers within the Santorini region due to the massive presence of Sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the violent vulcanization eruptions (Friedrich et al., 2006). Vulcanization can also lead to the formation of earthquakes, fall of rocks in form of debris; damage anything along the path of hot magma such as people houses and even vegetation (LaMoreaux, 1995). The eruptions of volcanoes are usually scalding hot and are capable of destroying, mudslides, burning and damaging anything they come into contact with (Campbell, 2015).

It also creates an atmospheric nature that makes it very difficult for living beings to breathe properly due to large amounts of dust and ash such as the volcanic ash in Asia that was a consequence of the eruptions all the way in Santorini (LaMoreaux, 1995). In instances where the ash gets too erupted into the stratosphere, the ozone layer begins to deplete (Eastwood et al., 2002). However, vulcanization can cause positive effects too, for instance, the creation of sceneries such as craters and the release of energy that can be converted into geothermal energy (Pyle, 1997). Lastly, the ashes and muds during the mud fall break down to create soils with very high nutrient contents that tend to be perfect for the purposes of agriculture (Forni et al., 2014).

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Tsunamis, on the other hand, have their effects bound to their seismic events. It can either cause unnoticeable or highly catastrophic effects depending on the strength of seismic waves (Pyle, 1997). When the waves break the shoreline, they are capable of destroying any destruction, item or human on their way. This constantly leads to effects such as the destruction of boats and also the complete destruction of small islands to a point of no recognition (Pyle, 1997). They are also capable of causing drowning and electrocution in case the huge water waves get into contact with open electronic sources


Background of the disaster

The background of Thera eruption dates back to between 1628 and 1450 BC, this is one eruption that has come to be known as one of the most catastrophic ones in the history of the globe (Campbell, 2015). The eruption being compared to the energies released by 40 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima is therefore definitely a catastrophic one (Canadian Museum of History, 2017). The catastrophic nature of this eruption can also be supported by the fact that it caused effects to over hundreds of kilometers away in areas such as Asia, North Africa, and Egypt. Its shockwaves still got experienced in areas such as Europe (Antonopoulos, 1992).

The main occurrence of the eruption was due to a major fault zone extending up to 80 kilometers between geological plates supporting both Africa and Europe (Pyle, 1997). This fault zone provided a zone of weakness for flowing lava to move in an upwards movement. This fault zone however intersected with that of the rift valley and this can only be termed as a situation made twice as worse as it was (Antonopoulos, 1992). This perhaps explains how the eruption was capable of an almost universal spread of effects. The eruption of Thera thereafter led to the release of extremely high pressures within the regions of Thera, the crashing of ocean waves into the shores of Crete leading to the destruction of the Minoan fleet (Friedrich et al., 2006). The ocean waves also lead to a lot of deaths through drowning and subsiding of ships that were sailing in the ocean and also caused major fires in alongside the Mediterranean (Whipps, 2008).

Impact of the eruption

Judging from the scope of effects caused, the Thera eruption is, therefore, one of the major universal catastrophic occurrences to ever occur. Even amidst hot debates between individuals who do not believe that the eruption played a key role in the declination of the Minoan civilization (Campbell, 2015). Even though such opposers try to lay arguments that the Minoan civilization had long begun to decline on its own way before the eruption occurred, the eruptions catalyzation of the decline cannot be ignored (Minoan Civilization, 2017). The Minoan was a civilization that prospered during the Bronze Age on Crete Island (Fagan & Scarre, 2016). As the name suggests, the Bronze Age is an era that was characterized by the heavy usage of bronze (Campbell, 2015). The Minoan lived in maze-like palaces. On the walls of these palaces, there were paintings that depicted war. Nevertheless, the walls were painted with bright colors and the structures were supported by “upside-down” pillars (Fagan & Scarre, 2016).

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First and foremost is because of the evident fact that by the time the eruption hit the Minoan fleet at Crete, the Minoan civilization was at its highest (Cartwright, 2009). This eruption can be also termed as catastrophic considering the scope and wide range of individuals and property it had an effect on. Perhaps the massive loss of life to begin with due to drowning and the subsiding of water vessels due to Tsunamis caused by the eruption is definitely a clear reason as to why it is indeed catastrophic (Noa, 2010). The eruption also led to the release of aerosols and very dangerous gaseous content into the atmosphere which definitely made it hard for living things dependent on oxygen for respiration (Friedrich et al., 2006). These aerosols also changed the global climate and also changed the flow of the Mediterranean to a totally different course of flow (LaMoreaux, 1995). The eruption led to massive tsunamis also that washed away or rather destroyed the smaller islands to an incognito point.

Other factors that can also prove how catastrophic this event was the constant eruption of fires along the Mediterranean and the island due to the passing hot lava eruption that also saw a huge amount of aquatic life get destroyed (Whipps, 2008). The eruption also went high enough into the stratosphere, a factor that led to the blocking of the sun (LaMoreaux, 1995). This led to a very high rate of ozone layer depletion and the blocking of the sun led to very cold temperatures that saw summers experience rainfalls years after the occurrence of the eruption (Friedrich et al., 2006).

All these are thereafter evidence that the Thera eruptions are perhaps one of the most catastrophic events in the universe. The reason behind this claim is that Thera eruption created effects that were a number of times more than that expected of atomic bombs (Cartwright, 2009). Therefore for a natural disaster to have the power of destruction relatable and perhaps worse than that of atomic bombs, it is pretty fair to only term the natural event as catastrophic and nothing less. Finally, the eruption led to the destruction and perishing of the Minoans including their culture in a mysterious way that scientists are struggling to understand (Noa, 2010).

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Future preventive measures

The most common preventive measure usually applied especially during periods such as that of foreseen or expected volcanic eruptions, evacuation is always among the top in the list. This is done by ensuring that inhabitants that live within a specific perimeter prone to destruction by eruptive material from vulcanization get moved to areas where the risk of effect is very little (Rabinovich et al., 2017). This preventative measure, however, is dependent on the need to predict the eruption before it occurs and also soon enough so as to be able to protect the highest number possible of people bound to be harmed by the eruption (Setiawan et al., 2017). Inhabitants of areas that constantly experience volcanic eruptions are required to usually stay clear of lava, mudflows and flying debris (Rabinovich et al., 2017).

Preventive measures, however, come in three forms, before, after or during the occurrence of a volcanic eruption. Measures before an eruption occur include obedience to early warning mechanisms about volcano eruptions because they are usually predictable (Cartwright, 2009). Such include elevated temperatures and constant steam emissions by volcanoes. Upon detecting such characteristics individuals can begin their evacuation process (Setiawan et al., 2017). Individuals should also be encouraged by the need to refuse to adhere to the evacuation process. They should also store as many necessities as possible in terms of food, water, light and face masks to prevent the inhaling of volcanic ash, especially during the evacuation. Preventive measures during volcanic eruptions include closing all doors and windows and seeking cover from ash falls or flying debris.


The Thera eruption has definitely been the best case study on what natural disasters can lead to. It has led to the idea of the concept of economic weapons of mass destruction. This is a concept that clearly indicates the capability of nature to destroy another existing form of nature. It is therefore fair to conclude that more methods of early preparation towards natural disasters deserve to be invested in order to help reduce the effects of other future catastrophic natural events.

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Did you like this sample?
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