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Heat transfer and melting in subglacial basaltic volcanic eruptions: Implications for volcanic deposit morphology and meltwater volumes

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2002
<mark>Journal</mark>Geological Society Special Publication
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)5-26
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Subglacial volcanic eruptions can generate large volumes of meltwater that is stored and transported beneath glaciers and released catastrophically in jökulhlaups. At typical basaltic dyke propagation speeds, the high strain rate at a dyke tip causes ice to behave as a brittle solid; dykes can overshoot a rock-ice interface to intrude through 20-30% of the thickness of the overlying ice. The very large surface area of the dyke sides causes rapid melting of ice and subsequent collapse of the dyke to form a basal rubble pile. Magma can also be intruded at the substrate-ice interface as a sill, spreading sideways more efficiently than a subaerial flow, and also producing efficient and widespread heat transfer. Both intrusion mechanisms may lead to the early abundance of meltwater sometimes observed in Icelandic subglacial eruptions. If meltwater is retained above a sill, continuous melting of adjacent and overlying ice by hot convecting meltwater occurs. At typical sill pressures under more than 300 m ice thickness, magmatic CO 2 gas bubbles form c. 25 vol% of the pressurized magma. If water drains and contact with the atmosphere is established, the pressure decreases dramatically unless the overlying ice subsides rapidly into the vacated space. If it does not, further CO 2 exsolution plus the onset of H 2O exsolution has the potential to cause explosive fragmentation, i.e. a fire-fountain that forms at the dyke-sill connection, enhancing melting and creating another candidate pulse of meltwater. The now effectively subaerial magma body becomes thicker, narrower, and flows faster so that marginal meltwater drainage channels become available. If the ice overburden thickness is much less than c. 300 m the entire sill injection process may involve explosive magma fragmentation. Thus, there should be major differences between subglacial eruptions under local or alpine glaciers compared with those under continental-scale glaciers.