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Exhibit Shows Iceland's Biggest Volcanic Eruption in 200 Years

Jul 07, 2016 09:01 AM EDT
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Seismologists from the University of Cambridge risked their lives to document the largest Icelandic volcanic eruption in 200 years.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Chasing a volcanic eruption in the name of science can bring both adrenalin rush and danger to researchers. But safety is not the priority for a group of seismologists who managed to deploy equipment and successfully document Iceland's biggest volcanic event in 200 years.

Instead of running away after noticing tremors, the researchers hastily positioned their gears right in time before an eruption occurred on Aug. 28, 2014. The dramatic story will be told in an exhibit in London at this year's Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.

Cambridge research students from the university's Volcano Seismology group were monitoring the Barðarbunga volcano for days. They were woken up by tremors believed to have caused by molten rocks that they have been tracking and studying for 10 days. But what makes this study more interesting is that the researchers chose science over safety when an imminent danger of a volcanic eruption was present. They aimed to get as close as they can, according to a press release by the University of Cambridge.

The team successfully installed equipment where the channel was flowing and just hours after they did so, the volcano erupted, in a different spot. This proves means their dedication to science came intro fruition and their obvious disregard for safety was worth it because they were able to document Iceland's biggest volcanic event in 200 years;  with magma height that reached 150 meters high.

The importance of fieldwork concerning volcanic eruptions and seismic activities are also being presented in the exhibit.

The molten lava has been moving underground the said volcano since another Icelandic volcano erupted in 2010. The researchers from the University of Cambridge rushed against time in retrieving the equipment before flowing lava destroys them, according to a video released by Press and Journal in the UK.

Their race for science is like those scenes typically sees in the movies. "It was absolutely spectacular," Robert Green, a seismologist at the University of Cambridge said in a statement published by Quartz. "Seeing nature in its absolutely full power was something I will never forget," Green added.

But aside from the life-threatening experience, the study presented a new understanding of how volcanic eruptions occur. The lava from the Bárðarbunga volcano traveled 46 kilometers underground away from the volcano before it erupted, creating another exit point in an entirely different place. This study will greatly help in the understanding of seismic events all over the world. 


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