As so-called hotspots, volcanic regions thought to be fed by underlying mantle, Iceland and Hawaii are key locations in the search for the origins of water. An international scientific conference on the subject was held at Breiddalsvík, east Iceland, last week.
The volcanic eruption on Fimmvörduháls in 2010. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“We are trying to figure out where water on Earth comes from,” Dr. Thorvaldur Thórdarson, a volcanologist at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, told Morgunbladid.
The conference, which took place September 5 to 9, was organized by Thórdarson, Dr. Karen Meech, an astrologist at the University of Hawaii and NASA, in collaboration with Breiddalssetur, Breiddalshreppur and Hotel Bláfell.
Twenty-five scientists from across the globe attended the conference: astrologists, astrobiologists, geologists and petrologists, among others. The group has met regularly in the past five years to compare their studies; last year they met in Hawaii.
Thórdarson said the search for water’s origins is complicated. There are indications that when the earth was created it lost all vaporous chemicals like water and carbon dioxide; the question is how these chemicals returned. It may have occurred via comets or meteorites, he explained.
Iceland and Hawaii play a key role in the search as volcanic eruptions that occur there may cause magma to be thrust to the surface from a significant depth. Crystals containing trapped particles (Icelandic: innlyksur) are also carried with the magma, which may help solve the riddle.
“We hope that these [trapped particles] may help us trace the origins of water on Earth, we use it as a window into the mantle,” Thórdarson added.
The scientists have taken many samples and the search is progressing, although it also keeps getting more complicated, he concluded.