Temporal evolution of magma and crystal mush storage conditions in the Bárðarbunga-Veiðivötn volcanic system, Iceland

Alberto Caracciolo, Enikő Bali, Guðmundur H Guðfinnsson, Maren Kahl, Sæmundur A Halldórsson, Margaret Hartley, Haraldur Gunnarsson

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The depth(s) of magma storage reservoirs beneath active volcanic regions may change with time. Determining the rates and causes of millennial-scale changes in magmatic system architecture is critical for the development of realistic time-integrated models of crustal evolution. Here we examine a suite of samples from the exceptionally well-exposed Bárðarbunga-Veiðivötn volcanic system in central Iceland in order to resolve the temporal evolution of magma storage conditions within one of Iceland’s most productive volcanic systems. We have measured the major and minor elemental composition of glass, mineral and melt inclusion from five erupted units that span a full glacial cycle, from a <100 ka subglacial eruption to a historical eruption in 1477 AD. All samples contain macrocrysts (>500 μm), polymineralic clots and high-crystallinity nodules, consistent with derivation from crystal mush bodies. Macrocryst rims are in chemical equilibrium with their respective carrier melts, while macrocrysts cores are too primitive to have crystallized from these melts. Each sample records a distinct range of macrocryst compositions, indicating that the composition and/or eruptibility of stored crystal mush has changed with time. Macrocrysts from the oldest units are the most primitive, and the macrocryst compositional range becomes wider and, on average, more evolved, with time. Clinopyroxene-melt and melt-based (OPAM) geobarometers reveal temporally invariant crystallization conditions of 1.9–2.2 ± 0.7 (1σ) kbar pressure, corresponding to depths around 6.8–7.8 ± 2.5 km. All the samples also contain melt inclusions trapped at mid-crustal pressures of ∼2.6 kbar (9.6 km). In addition, melt inclusions hosted in most primitive olivines and plagioclases from subglacial and early Holocene eruptions preserve evidence of crystallization in a lower-crustal storage level(s) located at 17.5 km (4.9 kbar). This petrological record of deep crystallization may be linked to a surge in eruption rates, tapping of lower-crustal magma reservoirs, consistent with a crustal response associated with postglacial isostatic rebound. In contrast, the absence of a deep crystallization signature in the younger eruptive units may reflect lower magma production rates under steady-state conditions of the crust, and new magma pathways favouring melt storage in the mid-crust.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105234
Early online date16 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Iceland
  • crystal mush
  • melt inclusions
  • Bárðarbunga-Veiðivötn
  • Thermobarometry


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