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The Minoan eruption of Santorini is one of the largest Holocene volcanic events and produced several cubic kilometers of pyroclastic flows emplaced on the submerged flanks of the volcano. Marine geophysical surveys reveal a multitude of undulating seafloor bedforms (USBs) around Santorini. While similar structures are known from other volcanoes worldwide, Santorini offers the unique opportunity to relate USB formation with volcanic processes during one of the best-studied volcanic eruptions worldwide. In this study, we combine high-resolution seismic reflection data with multibeam echosounder bathymetry to reveal the internal architecture of USBs around Santorini and to relate their morphological characteristics to formational processes. The USBs around Santorini were formed during the Minoan eruption and represent the seafloor expression of mass transport deposits. Three types of deposits differ in composition or origin. (1) Depositional USBs, which can only be found to the north of the island, where Minoan eruption ignimbrites reach their maximum thickness and the undulating topography is the result of thrusting within the deposit. (2) USBs related to slope failures of volcaniclastics from the entire Thera Pyroclastic Formation, which can be found east, south, and west of the island. (3) USBs associated with deep-seated deformation, which occurs on the southwestern flank along an area affected by rift tectonics and extends to a depth of more than 200 m below the seafloor. In cases (2) and (3), the USBs are formed upslope by block rotation and downslope by thrusting. Our study indicates that these processes may have contributed to the generation of the devastating Minoan tsunami. Since Santorini is located in one of the most tectonically active regions in the Mediterranean, capable of producing earthquakes with magnitude M7+, our study has important implications for hazard assessment. A strong earthquake located close to the island may have the potential to reactivate slope instabilities posing a previously undetected but potentially significant tsunami hazard.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters



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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.