Scientists believe ancient ‘super-glacial fire’ was caused by lightning strike

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Fire burns at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level in the glaciers that cover Alaska’s Katmai National Park, where scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks returned to the site last year and found it up to four times older than previously believed.

The fire was likely caused by lightning striking the tundra, said Hans Hjelmboldt, a professor of geology and geophysics.

Professor of Geology and Geophysics Hans Hjelmboldt of the University of Alaska Fairbanks shares the thought process and methods of his research team in their study of a super-glacial fire. https://t.co/m0ZRUuRBn4 #UndertheIce pic.twitter.com/YlD4y0OKF7 — UAF News (@UAFnews) October 25, 2018

“It’s a good way to cool the ground,” he said. “It’s often referred to as energy snow, by which I mean some of the energy in the snow melts and spreads out to the ground.”

The site has been previously dated to 7,000 years ago, but the researchers concluded that many of the former owners may not have been able to distinguish the fire from the three other fires that burned in the same place thousands of years later.

“The placement of these fires, and how far apart they are from each other, all adds up to suggest they are part of a ring of fires,” Hjelmboldt said.

The fires were likely caused by lightning strikes and larger explosive eruptions when trees were broken into smaller and smaller branches.

“The fire at this site was probably very large, very complicated,” said Hugh Peeples, a geophysicist who also worked on the study. “We can only see, actually, a relatively small portion of the ring.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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