The team, from Durham University and the University of Leeds, studied crystal formation from a volcano, in Santorini, in Greece, to calculate the timescale between the trigger of volcanic activity and the volcano’s eruption.
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.
They say the technique can be applied to other volcanoes – such as Vesuvius, near Naples, in Italy – and will help inform the decisions of civil defence agencies.