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Title: Dyke-induced earthquakes during the 2014-15 Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun rifting event, Iceland
Author: Woods, Jennifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 8215
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Understanding dykes is vital as they serve both as bodies that build the crust and as conduits that feed eruptions. The 2014-15 Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun rifting event comprised the best-monitored dyke intrusion to date and the largest eruption in Iceland in 230 years. Over a 13 day period magma propagated laterally from the subglacial Bárðarbunga volcano, Iceland, along a 48 km path before erupting in the Holuhraun lava field on 29 August 2014. A huge variety of seismicity was produced, including over 30,000 volcano-tectonic earthquakes (VTs) associated with the dyke propagation at ∼ 6 km depth below sea level, and long-period seismicity - both long-period earthquakes (LPs) and tremor - associated with the eruption processes. The Cambridge University seismic network in central Iceland recorded the dyke seismicity in unprecedented detail, allowing high resolution analyses to be carried out. This dissertation comprises two parts: study of 1) the volcano-tectonic dyke-induced seismicity and 2) the long-period seismicity associated with eruption processes. Volcano-tectonic earthquakes induced by the lateral dyke intrusion were relocated, using cross-correlated, sub-sample relative travel times. The ∼ 100 m spatial resolution achieved reveals the complexity of the dyke propagation pathway and dynamics (jerky, segmented), and allows us to address the precise relationship between the dyke and seismicity. The spatio-temporal characteristics of the induced seismicity can be directly linked in the first instance to propagation of the tip and opening of the dyke, and following this - after dyke opening - indicate a relationship with magma pressure changes (i.e. dyke inflation/deflation), followed by a general 'post-opening' decay. Seismicity occurs only at the base of the dyke, where dyke-imposed stresses - combined with the background tectonic stress (from regional extension over > 200 years since last rifting) - are sufficient to induce failure of pre-existing weaknesses in the crust, while the greatest opening is at shallower depths. Emplacement oblique to the spreading ridge resulted in left-lateral shear motion along the distal dyke section (studied here), and a prevalence of left-lateral shear failure. Fault plane strikes are predominately independent of the orientation of lineations delineated by the hypocenters, indicating that they are controlled by the underlying host rock fabric. Long-period earthquakes and tremor were systematically detected and located during the dyke propagation phase and the first week of the eruption. Clusters of highly similar, repetitive LPs were identified, with a peak frequency of ∼ 1 Hz and clear P and S phases followed by a long-duration coda. The source mechanisms were remarkably consistent between clusters and also fundamentally different to those of the VTs. The clusters were accurately located near each of three ice cauldrons (depressions formed by basal melting) that were observed on the surface of Dyngjujökull glacier above the path of the dyke. Most events were in the vicinity of the northernmost cauldron, at shallower depth than the VTs associated with lateral dyke propagation. At the two northerly cauldrons, periods of shallow seismic tremor following the clusters of LPs were also observed. Given that the LPs occurred at ∼ 4 km depth and in swarms during times of dyke-stalling, it is inferred that they result from excitation of magmatic fluid-filled cavities and indicate magma ascent. The tremor may then represent the climax of the vertical melt movement, arising from either rapid, repeated excitation of the same LP cavities, or sub-glacial eruption processes. This long-period seismicity therefore highlights magma pathways between the depth of the dyke-VT earthquakes and the surface. Notably, no tremor is detected associated with each cauldron, despite melt reaching the base of the overlying ice cap, a concern for hazard forecasting.
Supervisor: White, Robert S. Sponsor: NERC ; Cambridge Philosophical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Microseismicity ; Iceland ; Volcanoes ; Dyke intrusion