Geodetic investigation of plate spreading along a propagating ridge: The Eastern Volcanic Zone, Iceland

Stephanie E. Scheiber-Enslin, Peter C. Lafemina, Erik Sturkell, Andrew J. Hooper, Susan J. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hotspot-ridge interactions lead to the dynamic evolution of divergent plate boundaries, including propagating and overlapping ridge segments. In southern Iceland, the Eastern Volcanic Zone (EVZ) formed approximately 2-3 Ma ago during the last eastward ridge jump from the Western Volcanic Zone (WVZ), and is propagating to the southwest into the Tertiary lithosphere of the Eastern Volcanic Flank Zone. North America-Eurasia relative plate motion is partitioned between the Eastern and WVZs. We utilize new terrestrial (dry-tilt) and space (GPS and InSAR) geodetic data to investigate the nature of plate spreading and magma-tectonic interaction at the southern terminus of this propagating ridge system. We present a new GPS derived horizontal velocity field covering the period 1994-2006, new InSAR analyses for the periods 1993-2000 and 2003-2007, and models of plate spreading across this region. The velocity field indicates horizontal surface deformation consistent with plate spreading across and the propagation of the EVZ. The dry-tilt and InSAR data show transient deformation signals associated with magmatic processes. The velocity field is corrected for these transient deformation sources in order to investigate the nature of secular plate motion. Our model results indicate a decrease in spreading rate from northeast (15 mm yr-1) to southwest (9 mm yr-1) across the Torfajökull caldera and the intersection of the South Iceland Seismic Zone and EVZ, consistent with the propagating ridge model. Plate spreading south of the intersection demonstrates that spreading must be partitioned with the Reykjanes Peninsula to the west at this latitude. Our results also constrain the minimum flux (0.05 km3 km-1 kyr-1) of magma to this segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and indicate that the Hekla magmatic system strains the Torfajökull caldera during pre- and co-eruptive periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1194
Number of pages20
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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