You need land before it can flood.

Santorini, like anywhere else in the world is prone to experiencing natural hazards. On this study abroad trip my project is to explore the hazard of flooding. Throughout the coarse I will be focusing on what landscapes are needed to facilitate flooding, what places have flooded in the past, and which areas will be prone to flooding in the future.

Flooding is dependent on the topography of the area, but the topography has to be formed by the plate tectonics to begin with. So what does this look like for the islands in the Aegean Sea, with the closest ground being hundreds of meters below the surface of the water?

In the Aegean there are two ways for this to happen, either the formation of land by a volcano (which few islands in the Aegean formed) or land was brought up from oceanic crust through faulting. Both of these processes are results of plate tectonics.

Schematic of island forming processes in the Aegean (Not to scale). The Hellenic Trench which is located south of Crete, is the point of a subduction zone from the African Plate which is being pushed underneath of the Aegean Microplate. This process leads to faulting, of which normal faulting causes material that was once on the sea floor to be pushed above the surface of the water while other material is falling below it’s previous position. Other faults such as strike slip faults, which cause areas of the earth to slide past each other, allow for magma to find a path through the crust of the earth and produce volcanoes that increase in size to form new land.
Dome volcanoes that make up part of Santorini and other volcanic islands in the Aegean sea. These domes create high areas that are very resistant to water which allows rain water to run off into lower areas that may be composed weakly consolidated material that will get washed away.
This is weak, unconsolidated material that is prone to erosion.
Basement rock (limestone and marble) brought up to the surface to form part of Santorini and most of the islands in the Aegean Sea. The land below the exposed basement rock is very close to the sea and relatively flat, which poses a huge flooding risk when the sea level rises.

Now that I learned how the landscape formed to facilitate flooding, by volcanic activity and normal faulting, I can better understand the different ways an area can experience floods. I’m looking forward to seeing the aftermath of floods in the past, what could have been done to prevent them, and seeing how flooding in Santorini differs from mainland areas.

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