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Survival of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap through the Holocene thermal maximum: evidence from sulphur contents in Katla tephra layers (Iceland) from the last ∽8400 years

  • Bergrun A. Oladottir (a1), Thor Thordarson (a2) (a3), Gudrun Larsen (a3) and Olgeir Sigmarsson (a1) (a3)
Abstract

The climate in Iceland was drier and warmer during the Holocene thermal maximum than it is today and it has been suggested that ice caps disappeared entirely. Katla, a volcano covered by the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in southern Iceland, has erupted rather steadily throughout the Holocene. Pre-and post-eruption sulphur concentrations in its products have been determined in previous studies, through melt inclusions trapped in phenocrysts (pre-eruption mean values of 2155±165 ppm) and fully degassed magmatic tephra (post-eruption mean values of 445±130 ppm). The phreatomagmatic tephra has much more variable S contents (550–1775 ppm) and spans the compositional gap between magmatic tephra and melt inclusions. These variable sulphur values are attributed to arresting of degassing as the magma is quenched upon contact with external water in the shallow levels of the volcano conduit. Sulphur in Katla tephra can thus be used to evaluate whether Mýrdalsjökull survived the warm spells of the Holocene. In this study, sulphur concentrations in tephra layers representing the last ∽8400 years of the volcano’s eruption history were measured, revealing concentrations in the phreatomagmatic range (600–1600 ppm). Hence, we conclude that over the last ∽8400 years, explosive activity at Katla has been dominated by phreatomagmatic eruptions, implying that the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap has been present throughout the Holocene.

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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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