The highest peaks, from the seabed, are about 3000 m. In Iceland, the mountain range rises above sea level and you can study this fascinating formation which is a plate boundary in the earth's crust. Here, the North American and the Eurasian plates slide apart by about 2 cm per year. Since Iceland is located in the middle of this plate boundary, this means that Iceland is constantly (slowly) growing in size.
On site in Iceland, the researchers were able to study the structures and fracture zones that form in the earth's crust as a result of the plates' movements. Along the fracture zones, magma occasionally penetrates and gives volcanic eruptions. In 2021, there was an eruption at Fagradalsfjall, in southwest Iceland. The researchers visited this area, which is now a (still smoking) lava flow that has solidified enough to be able to walk around on it to investigate and better understand the structures and the formation of the volcanic rocks.
"Magmatic processes can also cause metals to be concentrated in ores. Therefore, it is important as an ore geologist to study and understand how these processes work in the present, and then apply that knowledge to older bedrock, such as the one we have in Sweden," says Christina Wanhainen, professor in ore geology at the university.
"We had the opportunity to sample drill cores from the geologically young volcanic bedrock in Iceland, through the Carbfix project, and future analyses of these samples will give us important data and knowledge that we can transfer to an ongoing CCS project (Carbon Capture and Storage) where we investigate the potential for CO2-storage in the older Swedish bedrock," says Glenn Bark, senior lecturer in ore geology.
"The fractures and structures that are created in the bedrock by the tectonic plates moving apart provide space for magma to penetrate up to the earth's surface, which results in frequent earthquakes in the area around Fagradalsfjall. The week we spent in Iceland, several hundred earthquakes were registered, but most are small and not noticeable," says Tobias Bauer, assistant professor in ore geology.
The field studies in Iceland were conducted in connection with the Nordic Geological Winter Meeting, a scientific conference held every two years in the Nordic countries.