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Rock flows when ice goes.

Professor Lidenbrock and his faint-hearted nephew climbed straight into the maw of the Icelandic volcano Snaefellsjokull in Jules Verne's classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. Geologists are now following that fictional path, using the same volcano to explore the planet's interior.

Analyses of lava at Snaefellsjokull reveal that climate changes occuring 15,000 years ago dramatically affected processes deep within the Earth, report Bjorn S. Hardarson and J. Godfrey Fitton of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Their study, discussed in the Sept. 5 NATURE, focuses on the end of the last ice age, when Iceland lost its 2-kilometer-thick blanket of ice.

According to theory, the melting of that heavy load should have decreased the pressure on Earth's mantle, making it easier for the solid mantle rock to melt. Hardarson and Fitton find support for the theory in their analyses of the lava from Snaefellsjokull. Concentrations of certain elements in the rock suggest that mantle melting doubled when the ice load disappeared, they report.

"This is the first time anyone has ever observed climatic change to have any effect on the behavior of mantle processes," Fitton told SCIENCE NEWS.
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Title Annotation:Iceland's Snaefellsjokull volcano and climatic changes
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 14, 1991
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