Understandable Earth Science

I enjoyed reading this account of an astrobiology field trip to some of Iceland’s least accessible areas. I’m also very jealous 🙂

dr. claire cousins

Landing into Keflavik airport has become a familiar sight, as the vast flat expanse of moss-covered lava flows stretches out into a horizon of cold grey clouds as we approach the runway. This is my ninth trip to Iceland, and for this trip we are sampling from various sites in the northeast – some old, some new. Our key target as always is Kverkfjoll – a dormant volcanic caldera that peeks out from the northern margin of Vatnajokull ice cap. Iceland is often referred to as ‘the land of ice and fire’, and the geothermal environments at the summit of Kverkfjoll epitomise this name. Here, scattered clusters of small fumaroles – which vent hot volcanic gas – interact with overlying ice and snow to produce localised and short-lived pools of geothermal meltwater, which provide a haven for microbes within an otherwise remote and frozen environment. These environments provide a fascinating analogue to hydrothermal environments…

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