Temporal Gravity Variations near Shrinking Vatnajökull Ice Cap, Iceland
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Repeated gravity measurements were carried out from 1991 until 1999 at sites SE of Vatnajökull, Iceland, to estimate the mass flow and deformation accompanying the shrinking of the ice cap. Published GPS data show an uplift of about 13 ± 5 mm/a near the ice margin. A gravity decrease of –2 ± 1 μGal/a relative to the Höfn base station, was observed for the same sites. Control measurements at the Höfn station showed a gravity decrease of –2 ± 0.5 µGal/a relative to the station RVIK 5473 at Reykjavík (about 250 km from Höfn). This is compatible, as a Bouguer effect, with a 10 ± 3 mm/a uplift rate of the IGS point at Höfn and an uplift rate of ~20 mm/a near the ice margin. Although the derived gravity change rates at individual sites have large uncertainties, the ensemble of the rates varies systematically and significantly with distance from the ice. The relationship between gravity and elevation changes and the shrinking ice mass is modelled as response to the loading history. The GPS data can be explained by 1-D modelling (i.e., an earth model with a 15-km thick elastic lithosphere and a 7·1017 Pa·s asthenosphere viscosity), but not the gravity data. Based on 2-D modelling, the gravity data favour a low-viscosity plume in the form of a cylinder of 80 km radius and 1017 to 1018 Pa·s viscosity below a 6 km-thick elastic lid, embedded in a layered PREM-type earth, although the elevation data are less well explained by this model. Strain-porosity-hydrology effects are likely to enhance the magnitude of the gravity changes, but need verification by drilling. More accurate data may resolve the discrepancies or suggest improved models.
KeywordsIceland temporal gravity change GPS plume viscosity
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