Dramatic drainage at Kverkfjoll

A few days ago, on the 16th August, the large geothermal lake ‘Gengissig’ that sits atop the volcanic system of Kverkfjoll in central Iceland, emptied spectacularly producing a small jökulhlaup.

An empty lake Gengissig, with dark streaks across the snow indicating the direction of flow (credit: Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra)

An empty lake Gengissig, with dark streaks across the snow indicating the direction of flow (credit: Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra)

Jokulhlaup flowing out from Vatnajokull ice cap (credit: Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra)

Jokulhlaup flowing out from Vatnajokull ice cap (credit: Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra)

This area has been a major focus for my research over the past few years, using it to address problems ranging from the identification of hydrothermal deposits on Mars to volcanically-driven biogeochemistry. We last sampled this lake, and surrounding sites, in June 2011, with a plan to go back there next summer (2014). This dramatic change to the environment, as well as new access to pristine sedimentary deposits, will allow us to address a whole new set of questions relating to life in volcano – ice environments, and their detection on Mars.

For more information, check out the Almannavarnadeild facebook page and homepage for up-to-date news stories. In particular, the nearby Skaftá cauldren also looks set to drain out soon:

Overflowing Skafta cauldron - a lake that is normally subglacial (credit: Jon Sigurdsson Grétar)

Overflowing Skafta cauldron – a lake that is normally subglacial (credit: Jon Sigurdsson Grétar)

Many thanks to Magnus Karlsson for bringing this story to my attention

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