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A Close Brush With Disaster
updated: Aug 11, 2014, 10:56 AM

By UCSB Public Affairs News

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) - When part of Iceland's Askja volcano collapsed last month in a massive landslide that created a tsunami in Lake Öskjuvatn, a group of UC Santa Barbara students and faculty members had nearly front-row seats. By a stroke of luck, they were in the area conducting fieldwork as part of a summer course.

"For all of us, whether student or professor, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the dramatic effects of such a rare event almost in real time," said course instructor Phillip Gans, an associate professor in UCSB's Department of Earth Science. "We had been there hours before and were able to witness the effects immediately after, even to the point of seeing the lake still oscillating a little bit."

Although some scientists speculated at first that the slide could have been triggered by an eruption, the consensus among them is that it was more likely caused by warmer temperatures and snow melt. These destabilized Askja's very steep, rocky slopes and created a huge plume of steam. The events provided an unparalleled opportunity for the UCSB group that was visiting the country as part of an exchange program with the University of Iceland.

To view the complete story, go to news.ucsb.edu.


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