Subglacial lava propagation, ice melting and heat transfer during emplacement of an intermediate lava flow in the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption

  • Björn OddssonEmail author
  • Magnús T. Gudmundsson
  • Benjamin R. Edwards
  • Thorvaldur Thordarson
  • Eyjólfur Magnússon
  • Gunnar Sigurðsson
Research Article


During the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in South Iceland, a 3.2-km-long benmoreite lava flow was emplaced subglacially during a 17-day effusive-explosive phase from April 18 to May 4. The lava flowed to the north out of the ice-filled summit caldera down the outlet glacier Gígjökull. The flow has a vertical drop of about 700 m, an area of ca. 0.55 km2, the total lava volume is ca. 2.5·107 m3 and it is estimated to have melted 10–13·107 m3 of ice. During the first 8 days, the lava advanced slowly (<100 m day−1), building up to a thickness of 80–100 m under ice that was initially 150–200 m thick. Faster advance (up to 500 m day−1) formed a thinner (10–20 m) lava flow on the slopes outside the caldera where the ice was 60–100 m thick. This subglacial lava flow was emplaced along meltwater tunnels under ice for the entire 3.2 km of the flow field length and constitutes 90 % of the total lava volume. The remaining 10 % belong to subaerial lava that was emplaced on top of the subglacial lava flow in an ice-free environment at the end of effusive activity, forming a 2.7 km long a'a lava field. About 45 % of the thermal energy of the subglacial lava was used for ice melting; 4 % was lost with hot water; about 1 % was released to the atmosphere as steam. Heat was mostly released by forced convection of fast-flowing meltwater with heat fluxes of 125–310 kWm−2.


Volcano-ice interaction Glaciovolcanism heat transfer Iceland Lava flow 



We thank the Icelandic Coast Guard for their highly professional work during the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull 2010. Funding for observation flight was provided through the emergency response of the Icelandic Government. Part of the work for processing was funded by the University of Iceland Research Fund. Þórdís Högnadóttir was in charge of the observation flight programme and John Stevenson provided helpful discussion after being in the field. We thank J. Ciarrocca, R. Rossi, J. Haklar and E. Was for assistance with fieldwork at Gigjökull, which was funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation (RAPID EAR 1039461 to BE) and the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (Grant Number 9152-12 to BE). Katharine Cashman, Dave Mcgarvie and anonymous reviewer provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Björn Oddsson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Magnús T. Gudmundsson
    • 1
  • Benjamin R. Edwards
    • 3
  • Thorvaldur Thordarson
    • 4
  • Eyjólfur Magnússon
    • 1
  • Gunnar Sigurðsson
    • 5
  1. 1.Nordvulk, Institute of Earth SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  2. 2.Department of Civil Protection and Emergency ManagementNational Commissioner of the Icelandic PoliceReykjavíkIceland
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesDickinson CollegeCarlisleUSA
  4. 4.Faculty of Earth SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  5. 5.Icelandic Meteorological OfficeReykjavíkIceland

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