Tephra productivity and eruption flux of the subglacial Katla volcano, Iceland

Bergrún Arna Óladóttir*, Olgeir Sigmarsson, Guðrún Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The influence of the mode of magma ascent on eruption fluxes is uncertain beneath active volcanoes. To study this, the subglacial volcano Katla, Iceland, whichhas produced abundant tephra through the Holocene, has been investigated through volume estimations of the largest eruptions from the last ~ 3500 years. Tephra volume measurements allow tephra productivity and their variation through time to be estimated. By adding the volume of lava from effusive eruptions, the total eruption flux is obtained. Tephra productivity shows variations with time, ranging from 2.0 km3/century, during the prehistoric period examined, to 0.7 km3/century, during historical time (after 939 CE). However, the average eruption flux remained unchanged (~ 2.2 km3/century) during the studied ~ 3500 years due to the large lava produced during the Eldgjá flood basalt eruption (939 CE). Following the Eldgjá event, tephra production declined and also eruption frequency, decreasing from 5.6-2.0 eruptions/century. Magma ascending vertically to the glacier -covered volcano results in explosive phreatomagmatic eruptions and tephra formation, whereas magma transferred in a laterally extended dyke leads to predominant fissural eruptions outside the glacier (e.g., Eldgjá). The mode of magma ascent thus exerts control on the eruption frequency and the volcanic style at Katla volcano without affecting the long-term eruption flux. A uniform increase in cumulative magma volume from Katla suggests a time-integrated steady-state behavior over the last ~ 3500 years. Finally, although the large fissural eruption of Eldgjá lowered the following eruption frequency, it only temporarily affected the time averaged eruption flux of Katla.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

Other keywords

  • Eruption flux
  • Iceland
  • Katla
  • Magma storage system
  • Tephra
  • Tephra productivity


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