Enhancement of volcanism and geothermal heat flux by ice-age cycling: A stress modeling study of Greenland

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Ice-age cycling of the Greenland ice sheet likely contributed to locally elevated subglacial geothermal heat fluxes (GHFs), based on recent thermal modeling. Borehole and geophysical data indicate higher GHF in some areas than suggested by current knowledge of underlying geology, particularly at the head of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. Changes in lithospheric loading during ice-sheet growth and decay cycles produce large and geologically rapid changes in the effective stress state beneath and near the ice sheet. Oscillations in melt fraction from cyclic loading through multiple ice-age cycles will enhance upward magma migration through the nonlinear increase of melt migration velocity with melt fraction. We simulate periodic ice-sheet loading scenarios along an east-west transect across central Greenland on an Elastic Lithosphere, Relaxed Asthenosphere Earth model. Under likely parameter ranges, deviatoric stresses in the elastic lithosphere across widespread regions are sufficiently high to meaningfully enhance dike emplacement and also allow vug-wave propagation in some scenarios. Stress patterns migrate laterally in response to ice-sheet dynamics, favoring multistage magma ascent. If melt occurs at depth, our modeling suggests that ice-age cycling could help it migrate upward to shallow depth or erupt, contributing to the high observed GHF. Furthermore, shallow magma emplacement might feed hydrothermal systems exploiting enhanced faulting or fracturing from ice-age cycling, adding to elevated GHF. The preglacial passage of the Iceland-Jan Mayen hot spot could have sourced such magmas. Direct observations of these lithospheric processes needed to further constrain our models are limited, highlighting the value of more targeted geophysical studies informing future modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1456-1471
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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