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Report on Krafla (Iceland) — September 1976


Natural Science Event Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 12 (September 1976)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Krafla (Iceland) Increased seismicity from early July through mid-September

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1976. Report on Krafla (Iceland) (Squires, D., ed.). Natural Science Event Bulletin, 1:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.NSEB197609-373080



65.715°N, 16.728°W; summit elev. 800 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

More than 2 m of subsidence occurred in a 2-3 km2 roughly circular area, immediately E of Leirhnjúkur (about 4 km W of Krafla; figure 1), between 20 December 1975, the first day of a minor eruption of Leirhnjúkur, and the end of January, 1976. Subsidence was followed by uplift of about 6.5 mm/day, beginning in February and continuing to the present (figure 2).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Outline geologic map of Krafla caldera and the associated fault swarm. Note that Leirhnjúkur is a feature within tha caldera and that Lake Mývatn intercepts a portion of the fault swarm. From Björnsson and others (1977).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Deformation and seismicity at Krafla caldera, November 1975-November 1976. A) N-S component of tilt at the Krafla power house; increasing numbers mean tilt down towards the N. B) 5-day running average of the number of earthquakes per day recorded at the seismic station near Reykjahlíd. Tilt was measured by precision levelling until August 1976, after which a conventional "wet" titlmeter (79 m base) was used. From Björnsson and others (1977).

The area of subsidence and subsequent uplift is thought to be underlain by a magma chamber about 3 km in diameter with its roof at about 3 km depth. Assuming that the cause of uplift was flow of magma from below into the chamber, velocity of flow was of the order of 4-4.5 m3/s.

The number of earthquakes per day in the area (figure 2) has increased considerably since early July, although remaining an order of magnitude less than the 1500/day experienced in January, then decreased rapidly in the last days of September.

Reference. Björnsson, A., Saemundsson, K., Einarsson, P., Tryggvason, E., and Grönvold, K., 1977, Current rifting episode in north Iceland: Nature, v. 266, p. 318-323.

Geological Summary. The Krafla central volcano, located NE of Myvatn lake, is a topographically indistinct 10-km-wide caldera that is cut by a N-S-trending fissure system. Eruption of a rhyolitic welded tuff about 100,000 years ago was associated with formation of the caldera. Krafla has been the source of many rifting and eruptive events during the Holocene, including two in historical time, during 1724-29 and 1975-84. The prominent Hverfjall and Ludent tuff rings east of Myvatn were erupted along the 100-km-long fissure system, which extends as far as the north coast of Iceland. Iceland's renowned Myvatn lake formed during the eruption of the older Laxarhraun lava flow from the Ketildyngja shield volcano of the Fremrinamur volcanic system about 3800 years before present (BP); its present shape is constrained by the roughly 2000 years BP younger Laxarhraun lava flow from the Krafla volcanic system. The abundant pseudocraters that form a prominent part of the Myvatn landscape were created when the younger Laxarhraun lava flow entered the lake.

Information Contacts: H. Sigtryggsson, Icelandic Meteorological Office.