Greek: Θηρα εκρηξη
What: The Thera eruption was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption.
Erupted: 1630 B.C.
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6.9
The Thera eruption (modern day Santorini) was one of the largest volcanic eruptions on Earth in the past ten thousands years. The eruption destroyed the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri on the island, as well as the coasts of many nearby islands and mainland Greece. It has been attributed to the fall of the Minoan civilization, been linked to biblical stories and is believed to have been the inspiration for the lost city of Atlantis.
Once erupted, the volcano released plume as high as 30 to 35 km into the sky reaching as high as the stratosphere. It caused a massive tsunami that was 35 to 150 m high which devastated settlements on the coastal regions of northern Crete. It also caused significant climate changes in the eastern Mediterranean region for years afterwards and may have been felt as far as Egypt.
Subsequently, the Akrotiri site on Thera was destroyed and buried by layers of ash from the volcano. This ash preserved the site, along with some beautiful frescoes, for over three and a half thousand years until it was rediscovered in 1967. No remains or artefacts have been found at the site leading some to believe that the people may have fled the island after receiving various warnings from the island that a disaster was immanent. Only one small object was found which was hidden under the floor of one of the buildings. It was a small golden sculpture of an ibex.
The island of Thera, although not active now, has erupted twelve times over the last one million years. It is believed that volcanic eruptions for the Thera volcano will occur every 5000 years and the Plinian-type eruption that occurred in 1630 BC will occur once every 20,000 years. Thera has experienced a few eruptions in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the most recent eruption occurring in 1950 (image to the right). However volcanoes such as this one are very unpredictable and therefore could erupt at any given time.
Thera Volcano Eruption by National Geographic: