Fire and ice

Mount Belinda, an active volcano on an island in Antarctica, has started to blow — and is producing this totally awesome collision of fire and ice. There are some really gorgeous color-enhanced images coming out of NASA’s Earth-monitoring satellite Terra, one of which is above.

The changes to the local environment will be quite interesting to watch. Outside of the fact that the island is home to much of the world’s population of chinstrap penguins — who are probably freaking out right now — the melting ice will inject an enormous amount of freshwater into the ocean. (A smaller eruption in Iceland in 1996 produced a volume of freshwater outstripped only by the Amazon river.)

Volcano experts are predictably thrilled, as news@Nature notes:

“I’d give my right arm to be down there now,” says John Smellie, a volcano expert at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. “It’s very rare that we get to make direct observations of eruptions under ice sheets.”

Heh. He’d “give his right arm” to be down near A MASSIVELY UNSTABLE GEYSER of 1250-degree lava. Man, I love scientists. They’re willing to risk full-body mutilation just to acquire good data. More proof that the scientific method is the finest moral product of human civilization.

Of course, Robert Frost would have loved this event too.

(Thanks to SciTech Daily for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson