jokulhlaup

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Trip into one of this year’s ice caves beneath Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland.

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Soil liquefaction is a rather unsettling process in which apparently solid ground begins moving in a fluid-like way after agitation. It occurs in loose sediments when the spaces between individual particles become nearly saturated with water. This can happen, for example, after heavy rains or in a place with inadequate drainage. Such cases are typically very localized, though, and require some significant agitation of the surface, like pressing with heavy machinery or jumping in a single spot. Soil liquefaction becomes a greater danger, however, in an earthquake. Even in a dry area, the earth’s shaking can force groundwater up into the surface sediment and vibrate the soil sufficiently to liquify it, causing whole buildings to sink or tip and wreaking havoc on manmade infrastructure. (Video credit: jokulhlaups)