Fall 2015 Department News

Icelandic Analogs to Planetary Volcanism

During August 2015, Dr. Christopher Hamilton led two back-to-back research campaigns in Iceland to investigate terrestrial analogs to planetary volcanism. The month-long field season brought together a diverse group of students, post-doctoral researchers, early career scientists, and senior faculty from eleven different institutions, with diverse backgrounds in Earth and Planetary Sciences.

The first campaign focused on the 1783–1784 Laki lava flow and involved fifteen scientists. Laki is the largest historically documented lava flow in Iceland, with a volume of nearly 15 km3, and the eruption provides an exceptional analog for high-discharge rate flood lava eruptions that have occurred in the Tharsis and Elysium Volcanic Provinces on Mars. The second part of the trip involved seventeen scientists and focused on the new 2014–2015 eruption in Holuhraun, which generated 1.5–2.0 km3 of lava and is the largest eruption to have occurred in Iceland since Laki. Lava flows produced by the eruption also inundated a segment of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum—Iceland’s highest discharge river—resulting in the development of steam plumes and hot springs that host unusual forms of life.

The multi-disciplinary team utilized a range of instrumentation, including terrestrial scanning LiDAR, Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) measurements, thermal imaging, and low-altitude remote sensing using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and kite-based systems. Using these different approaches, the team collected a wealth of data, but most important the experience created a rare opportunity for collaboration between scientists with very diverse perspectives. Already the experience has opened several exciting new research directions and established a model for future field workshops that will be hosted by LPL to promote terrestrial analog investigations of planetary surface processes.

Iceland 2015 LPL Participation

  • Faculty: Dr. Christopher Hamilton, Dr. Shane Byrne
  • Associate Staff Scientist: Dr. Stephen Scheidt
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr. Michael Sori
  • Graduate Students: Ali Bramson, Margaret Landis,  Ethan Schaefer, Sarah Sutton
  • Undergraduate Student: Selena Valencia

For more information about the 2015 field campaign in Iceland, see: www.lpl.arizona.edu/workshops

Photos courtesy of Christopher Hamilton