Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fire & Ice

Via Knowledge News Email:
Volcanic Fire Under Glacier Ice Some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of Antarctica is an island--Montagu Island--in the treacherous waters of the South Atlantic. This is no place for people, or penguins even. A glacier blankets the island land. And beneath the glacier, actually creating the island, is an active volcano. Now scientists have satellite pictures of the volcano--Mount Belinda--spewing fiery lava down toward the icy sea. In just four weeks' time, the lava, traveling in a 100-yard (90-meter) flow, has released massive amounts of glacier-trapped water into the ocean and built up 50 new acres of land, as the molten rock slides into the water and cools. Scientists expect the changes to be dramatic. A decade ago, lava from a volcano in Iceland melted enough ice to create the second-largest flow of freshwater on the planet. At the time, only the Amazon River sent more freshwater toward the sea. Scientist John Smellie, of the British Antarctic Survey, says, "How hot rock interacts with ice is so poorly understood. This opportunity to monitor a live eruption and see how it affects ice cover is priceless." Dr. Smellie also says he would "give his right arm to be down there right now."
Mount Belinda Erupts -- NASA Image -- click for story and pics
Image Credit: NASA / Jesse Allen / Earth Observatory / HIGP Thermal Alerts Team + Full Resolution

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