Iceland Lake Disappearing Into New Crack in Earth

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While the Lake's dramatic disappearance is, for Clifton, "alarming, interesting, and unusual," she and her colleagues assume the waters will return. The last time a similar event happened was in 1912, after a magnitude 7 earthquake, and it took about three decades for the water level to normalize, she said.

Iceland experiences violent geological events because it sits at the Mid-Atlantic ridge—the boundary of the North American and European continental plates. The North American plate is shifting westward and the European plate is moving eastward. In the middle is a "hot spot," which spews the magma that has created the island of Iceland. Iceland grows by two centimeters (three-fourths of an inch) every year because of stretching and building caused by the combination of plate movements and volcanic activity.

Clifton said: "Iceland is a natural laboratory for studying this stretching and understanding the time scale on which these events occur."

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