Evolution of Icelandic central volcanoes: evidence from the Austurhorn intrusion, southeastern Iceland

Tanya Furman, Peter S. Meyer, Fred Frey

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The Austurhorn intrusive complex in southeastern Iceland represents an exhumed Tertiary central volcano. The geometry of the intrusion and geochemistry of the mafic and felsic rocks indicate Austurhorn was a volcanic center analogous to Eyjafjallajökull and Torfajökull in Iceland's eastern neovolcanic zone (EVZ). Early transitional tholeiitic basalt magmatism at Austurhorn formed a shallow crustal chamber ∼5 km in diameter. Apparent rhythmic modal layering of, and intrusive contacts within, the gabbro indicate the mafic chamber was replenished frequently as it cooled and crystallized. Felsic activity postdated near-solidification of the gabbro; numerous granitic magmas intruded along gabbro margins and within the adjacent crust. Field relations indicate that infrequent felsic replenishment prevented convective mixing of the Austurhorn chamber during this time, although commingled mafic and felsic magmas are observed in an extensive net veined complex. Late stage mafic dikes intrude the entire complex, suggesting that magmatic heat was abundantly available throughout the evolution of the Austurhorn system. Plagioclase and clinopyroxene compositions in mafic through felsic rocks, including gabbros, support a model of progressive differentiation. Field relations constrain the felsic magmas to originate at P≥1 kbar, presumably by fractional crystallization. The structure and geochemistry of the Austurhorn intrusive complex suggest formation in an immature rift environment similar to the modern EVZ. The proposed rift segment was parallel to the western and eastern neovolcanic zones, and probably resulted from a reorganization of plate boundaries ∼7 Ma (Saemundsson 1979; Helgason 1985; Jancin et al. 1985) triggered by activity of the Iceland mantle plume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-62
Number of pages18
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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