Plate Tectonic of Iceland
PlateTectonic of Iceland
Thispaper, through literature review, generates information about theplate tectonic of Iceland to adequately prepare students for theactual Iceland field trip. Currently, the plate tectonic of Icelandhas a significant impact on the plate boundary structure lyingbetween the original plates, i.e. Eurasian and North America plates.Concerning Iceland hotspot, various magma materials have led tobroad, complex plate boundary distortion compared to maritime plateboundaries. The movement of boundary plate results in unstableboundaries or the transfer of a single major plate towards the other.Tectonic plates of Iceland are partitioned into different segments,all showing similar characteristics, for instance, tectonic and magmafeatures. Through divergence, the segments display various fissuresand or faults in many sections of Iceland, generating earthquakes ofvaried magnitudes. Lastly, distinct transformation zones are producedwithin the seismic regions with different ridge rifting within thevolcanic zones.
PlateTectonic of Iceland
Bydefinition, plate tectonic is a theory of world tectonic platesinvolving geological structural distortions and serving as theprimary key in the modern geology. The theory provides explicitaccounts regarding the structure of the earth’s crust and therelated activities that drive the formation of planets (Einarsson,2013). Iceland is placed in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, on the edgeof the Arctic Circle, an area positioned amid latitude 63024’North and 66033’North between Longitude 13030’West and 24032’West (figure 3). Iceland is a raised area of dimensions 300 by 500kilometers and situated across a deviating plate borderline. It is onthe topmost hotspot of a presumed bottomless mantle plume. Thenearest nations are Norway (950 km), Greenland (286 km), and Scotland(795 km) (Einarsson, 2013). Iceland covers approximately 103,000 kmsquare in total which is assumed to be the size of Kentucky.
Icelandplatform is the biggest section of the universal platform, consistingof a shelf area of about 450 by 750 kilometers wide and bordered by awell a defined shelf edge. The platform sits on two different plates,that is, Eurasia plate to the Eastern Part and North America Plate ofthe Western section (Le Pichon, Francheteau & Bonnin, 2013).Also, the mid-Atlantic plate boundary is readily found in variousregions of the North Eastern Atlantic, comprising of moving andtransform divisions which split the two original plates, i.e. NorthAmerica and Eurasia plates. Iceland boundary is evidently elaboratedby different earthquake epicenters (figure 1) that reveal a narrowarea of deformation (distribution of earthquakes and or volcanism)(Hjartardóttir, Einarsson, Magnúsdóttir, Björnsdóttir &Brandsdóttir, 2016). This research paper, through literature review,generates information about the plate tectonic of Iceland toadequately prepare students for the actual Iceland field trip. Itserves as a pre-visit to the field, informing the students on what toexpect once in Iceland.
ResearchGoal and Justification
Thegoal of the study is to give students an insight about Iceland,highlighting the major geographical features to expect in Icelandonce an actual visit to the field is undertaken. Through thisresearch, every student gets to learn about the processes that led tothe formation of Iceland and its geographic features, as well aswhere they are located. That is imperative for the learners as itserves the role of field pre-visit, informing students about everydetail of the area to visit. This information is essential becauseonce the students are in the field, they are well informed about whatto do and where to go while mapping the various geographic featuresof Iceland. Consequently, there will be minimal to no time wastage inthe field, and group cooperation will be successful the result,therefore, will be the attainment of the field excursion goal whichwill be to identify the various geographic features associated withthe active volcanism and glaciations within Iceland. Due to the valueof this research to the success of field trip, the literature reviewtargets to determine major activities associated with plate tectonicof Iceland, as well as all the geographic features that resulted.That way, it will be easy to appreciate the features once in Iceland.
TheRelative Movements of the Major Plates
In1908 to 1912, a German geologist (Alfred Wegner) suggested differenttheories, for instance, the continental drift, which emphasized thatcontinental plates usually disintegrate, move apart, and collide withone another. It is such collisions that led to the crumbling of thegeosyncline deposition, generating future mountain belts. The pole ofcomparative movement amid the two primary plates is in North EastSiberia at approximately 62.4 degrees North and 135.8 degrees east(Geirsson et al., 2012). Einarsson (2013) argued that keeping theNorth America plate motionless gave a plate speed vector of about18.2 mm every year and a direction of 105 degrees for CentralIceland. Based on the data recorded by Global Positioning Systemstations, it has been revealed that the plate tectonic movements areconsistently on time scales extending from years to millions ofyears. One of the strongest reasoning by Einarsson (2013) concerningplate tectonics movement relates to the geometric marching of theclearly defined continental margins. By the same token, anexamination of the rock formation (figure 4) on the other side of theAtlantic Ocean, Brazil, and West Africa revealed that the rocks inthese regions are similar in age, structure, and type (Einarsson,2013).
Furthermore,Iceland is found in seven different hot spots, supposedly linked toplumes coming from the core-mantle boundary (Geirsson et al., 2012).However, other researchers contend that although there exists areasonable indication from the seismic geomorphology for an uppermantle, speed keeps on decreasing below the Iceland and, therefore,the difference cannot be confirmed to reach the earth’s core(Geirsson et al., 2012). Besides, the anomaly in Iceland isestablished on the seismic Green-Faroes Ridge, recommended as asection of “hot spot track” above a profoundly static plume(Hjartardóttir et al., 2016). On that regard, the position ofIceland is estimated as a hotspot that spans the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,leading to the emergence of Iceland ascribed to the divergence andextension of the boundary between the two first plates. The constantvelocity of the major plates might cause deposition of snow loads onthe highland regions, causing a co-seismic impact which results inearthquakes (Le Pichon et al., 2013).
PlateBoundary Deformation Zone
Surroundedby the plates of North American and the Eurasia is a region ofdestruction, i.e. an area experiencing crustal motions dissimilarfrom that of the primary plates. Geirsson et al. (2012) pointed outthat the breadth of the destruction zone is somehow variable. Forinstance, in North Atlantic Iceland, it is approximately one hundredkilometers in width and coincides with the region of Holocenevolcanism and fissuring (Hjartardóttir et al., 2016). Thus,volcanic trails are slowly linked with hotspots, and their actualfixity relative to each other is clearly distinguished. Based on thecontext of fissuring, the plate tectonic theory has commended localconvection, fracture management, and mechanisms that propagate cracksto cause the formation of different landforms (figure 2).Consequently, the boundary distortion in Iceland gathers stress inparticular time breaks between essential fissure activities includingsevere earthquakes and or rifting episodes (Le Pichon et al., 2013).
Onthe other hand, there exist two branches or blocks between theSouthern Iceland that do not reveal proof of lively distortions orvolcanism. From that perspective, Geirsson et al. (2012) articulatedthat the possibility of earthquake epicenters occurring within thezone is minimal. However, others believe that the area possesses ageological proof to reveal that the zone existed, but it is just notactive currently. Specifically, the majority of belts found withinthe Southern Iceland disclose a fundamental fault shift that runsparallel to the general mountain system (Hjartardóttir et al.,2016). In the long term, and within defined time intervals, thedrifting on the faults fluctuates, first gradually, then rapidly, andwith a shift of roughly one to five meters. That situation might becreated by just a single earthquake in an area, possibly in Taiwan,Sumatra, New Zealand, Alaska, Chile, Japan, or Philippines (Geirssonet al., 2012).
TectonicStructure of the Iceland Plate Boundary Segments
Thereare different partitions (segments) of Iceland tectonic plates, allwith magnetic, tectonic and or properties characteristics (Einarsson,2013). According to Geirsson et al. (2012), crustal formation inIceland takes place in zones of divergence through magma processes.The majority of magma actions involve volcanic progressions both onland and shelf regions to the North and South of Iceland. Volcanicactivities are determined based on structural, as well as petrologicfeatures of Iceland (Hjartardóttir et al., 2016) see figure 2. Itcomprises of central volcano, vent, and a fissure that allowstrans-sections and spreading of materials in all directions. Thematerials exert pressure on the surface, causing sagging on theIceland surface within the zone, hence, the sagging of the crust (LePichon et al., 2013).
Withregards to the model of Palmason, loading of volcanic materials, inaddition to the divergence of the tectonic plates across the region,generates a dip. Moreover, the knowledge based on seafloor spreadingwith the Iceland confirmed the drifting and or expansion of thesediment volcanic materials (Le Pichon et al., 2013)). Iceland platesincorporate typical faults of small cracks arranged side by side in anumber of rift zones, forming transform zones (Geirsson et al.,2012). Lastly, within the zone, the transform movement is regularlyrealized by strike-slip within the faults and cracks that aretransverse to the exact zones. The frequent occurrence of earthquakesis reported in the eastern section of the zone, succeeded by smallerevents far to the west. Consequently, Einarsson (2013) concluded thatthe South Iceland seismic zones show a great confirmation of Holocenefaulting (figure 1).
Theliterature review depicted plate tectonic of Iceland as an activearea of volcanic activities and glaciations. That sounds well for ageography learner because these processes are associated with a broadrange of landform processes and rock formation. On that regard, therewill be plenty of activities to partake during the field excursion.First, related to volcanic processes in Iceland, students expect tomap features related to the recent eruptions. Among the landforms thelearners expect to witness are lava flows, cinder cones, ashdepositions, and geothermal areas. However, students should alsoprepare for any eventualities because Iceland seems to be an activevolcanic zone, an implication that can occur at any time, even duringfield visitation. In any case, the region is remembered for itslatest eruption in the summer of the year 2014, while in 2010,similar eruptions disrupted flights (European airspace) for severalweeks (Hjartardóttir et al., 2016).
Secondly,as the name suggests, Iceland is known for its glaciationsactivities. Once the students visit the place, the expectation is towitness features created as a result of glaciations. Because theregion is famous for the presence of the largest ice cap in Europe(Vatnajökull, 8,100 sq. km), students expect to locate or view thevarious ice caps in the area. The region, due to volcanic activities,is associated with geothermal heat (Hjartardóttir et al., 2016). Theaim will be to observe, if possible, how the heat melts the ice, andto identify several sub-glacial lakes in Iceland formed as a resultof melting glaciers or ice. Finally, because the region is prone todisturbances related to volcanism and glaciations, students will alsoadventure to understand how the Icelanders survive in the area theymust be quite a hardy group of humans with unique characteristics!
Regardingtectonic plates of Iceland, current volcanic activities are linked toplate tectonic theories, for instance, the earth surface ispartitioned into two major plates (Eurasian and North Americanplates) with minimal inner distortions, and disjointed by plateboundary deformation zones. Besides, there are rifts in the seismiczones with depression areas various faults fissure swarms have agreater percentage within the new volcanic zones. Equally, Icelandowes its availability to mantle plume that generates many volcanicmaterials compared to Mid-Atlantic ridge. Lastly, earthquake regionsare situated in localities with the shunted eruptive belt. Thus,Iceland is an area with many landform processes attributed tovolcanism and glaciations. Certainly, any geography learner whovisits Iceland has the best opportunity to reinforce the courseworkabout land forming processes with a practical and captivating fieldexperience it is the trip to anticipate with immeasurable anxiety.
Einarsson,P. (2013). Plate boundaries, rifts and transforms inIceland. Jökull, 58(12),35-58.
Geirsson,H., LaFemina, P., Arnadottir, T., Sturkell, E., Sigmundsson, F.,Travis, M…..& Bennett, R. (2012). Volcano deformation at activeplate boundaries: Deep magma accumulation at Hekla volcano and plateboundary deformation in south Iceland. Journalof Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 117(B11).
Hjartardóttir,Á. R., Einarsson, P., Magnúsdóttir, S., Björnsdóttir, Þ. &Brandsdóttir, B. (2016). Fracture systems of the Northern VolcanicRift Zone, Iceland: an onshore part of the Mid-Atlantic plateboundary. GeologicalSociety, London, Special Publications, 420(1),297-314.
LePichon, X., Francheteau, J., & Bonnin, J. (2013). Platetectonics (Vol.6). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.
Figure1: Earthquake epicenters in the Atlantic Ocean 1964-2006http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/A-level/AQA/Year%2013/Plate%20Tectonics/Volcanoes/MEDC%20case%20study.htm
Figure2: Iceland rifts and landformshttp://www.coolgeography.co.uk/A-level/AQA/Year%2013/Plate%20Tectonics/Volcanoes/MEDC%20case%20study.htm
Figure3: Plate tectonic of Iceland locationhttp://www.coolgeography.co.uk/A-level/AQA/Year%2013/Plate%20Tectonics/Volcanoes/MEDC%20case%20study.htm
Figure4: Rock formation due to plate movementshttp://www.coolgeography.co.uk/A-level/AQA/Year%2013/Plate%20Tectonics/Volcanoes/MEDC%20case%20study.htm
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