Not by Fire but by Ice


 Updated 7 July 2005      

Mysterious Hot Spot Sparks Fire - 11 July 2005 - 

Scientists are puzzled by a 400-degree hot spot in the ground that ignited a wildfire. 

The hot spot was discovered by fire crews putting out a three-acre fire last summer in the Los Padres National Forest .

"They saw fissures in the ground where they could feel a lot of heat coming out," said Los Padres geologist Allen King. "It was not characteristic of a normal fire."

When fire investigators stuck a candy thermometer into the ground, it shot to the top of the scale, to 400 degrees. 

"When I heard about the candy thermometer, I was amazed," said Robert Mariner, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who studies volcanic gas vents, noting that the temperature of the volcanic vents he studies is typically 200 degrees, around the boiling point of water. "I thought these guys were pulling my leg."

(My first thought was that a new volcano is forming. So far, however, scientists have found no evidence of explosions or volcanic activity.)

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