Färoe-Iceland Ridge Experiment: 1. Crustal structure of northeastern Iceland

Robert K. Staples*, Robert S. White, Bryndis Brandsdóttir, William Menke, Peter K.H. Maguire, John H. McBride

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


Results from the Färoe-Iceland Ridge Experiment (FIRE) constrain the crustal thickness as 19 km under the Northern Volcanic Zone of Iceland and 35 km under older Tertiary areas of northeastern Iceland. The Moho is defined by strong P wave and S wave reflections. Synthetic seismogram modeling of the Moho reflection indicates mantle velocities of at least 8.0 km/s beneath the Tertiary areas of northeastern Iceland and at least 7.9 km/s beneath the neovolcanic zone. Crustal diving rays resolve the structure of the upper and lower crust. Surface P wave velocities are 1.1-4.0 km/s in Quaternary rocks and are rather higher, 4.4-4.7 km/s, in the Tertiary basalts that outcrop elsewhere. The highest crustal P wave velocities observed directly from diving rays are 7.1 km/s, from rays that turn at 24 km depth. Velocities of 7.35 km/s at the base of the crust are inferred from extrapolation of the lower crustal velocity gradient (0.024 s-1). A Poisson's ratio of approximately 0.27, equivalent to an S wave to P wave travel time ratio of 1.78, is measured throughout the crust east of the neovolcanic zone. The Poisson's ratio and the steep Moho topography (in places up to 30° from the horizontal) indicate that the entire crust outside the neovolcanic zone is cool (< 800°C). Gravity data are well matched by a velocity/density conversion of our seismic crustal model and indicate a region of low mantle density beneath the neovolcanic zone, believed to be due to elevated mantle temperatures. The crustal thickness in the neovolcanic zone is consistent with geochemical estimates of the melt generation, placing constraints on the flow within the Iceland mantle plume.

Original languageEnglish
Article number96JB03911
Pages (from-to)7849-7866
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Issue numberB4
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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