Structural analysis of a transform fault-rift zone junction in North Iceland

Agust Gudmundsson*, Sigurdur Brynjolfsson, Magnus Thor Jonsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


On the north coast of Iceland, the rift zone in North Iceland is shifted about 120 km to the west where it meets with, and joins, the mid-ocean Kolbeinsey ridge. This shift occurs along the Tjörnes fracture zone, an 80-km-wide zone of high seismicity, which is an oblique (non-perpendicular) transform fault. There are two main seismic lineaments within the Tjörnes fracture zone, one of which continues on land as a 25-km-long WNW-trending strike-slip fault. This fault, referred to as the Husavik fault, meets with, and joins, north-trending normal faults of the Theistareykir fissure swarm in the axial rift zone. The most clear-cut of these junctions occurs in a basaltic pahoehoe lava flow, of Holocene age, where the Husavik fault joins a large normal fault called Gudfinnugja. At this junction, the Husavik fault strikes N55°W, whereas Gudfinnugja strikes N5°E, so that they meet at an angle of 60°. The direction of the spreading vector in North Iceland is about N73°W, which is neither parallel with the strike of the Husavik fault nor perpendicular to the strike of the Gudfinnugja fault. During rifting episodes there is thus a slight opening on the Husavik fault as well as a considerable dextral strike-slip movement along the Gudfinnugja fault. Consequently, in the Holocene lava flow, there are tension fractures, collapse structures and pressure ridges along the Husavik fault, and pressure ridges and dextral pull-apart structures subparallel with the Gudfinnugja fault. The 60° angle between the Husavik strike-slip fault and the Gudfinnugja normal fault is the same as the angle between the Tjörnes fracture zone transform fault and the adjacent axial rift zones of North Iceland and the Kolbeinsey ridge. The junction between the faults of Husavik and Gudfinnugja may thus be viewed as a smaller-scale analogy to the junction between this transform fault and the nearby ridge segments. Using the results of photoelastic and finite-element studies, a model is provided for the tectonic development of these junctions. The model is based on an analogy between two offset cuts (mode I fractures) loaded in tension and segments of the axial rift zones (or parts thereof in the case of the Husavik fault). The results indicate that the Tjörnes fracture zone in general and the Husavik fault in particular, developed along zones of maximum shear stress. Furthermore, the model suggests that, as the ridge-segments propagate towards a zero-underlapping configuration, the angle between them and the associated major strike-slip faults gradually increases. This conclusion is supported by the trends of the main seismic lineaments of the Tjörnes fracture zone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-221
Number of pages17
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 1993


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