Iceland – Big news this week as researchers dedicate the first-ever monument to Okjökull glacier, memorializing the first Icelandic glacier to lose its glacier status to climate change. Ice loss in Iceland is dramatic; researchers expect all of Iceland’s glaciers to go extinct in the next ~200 years, with drastic changes to Icelandic culture and economy. As the ice retreats and reveals the underlying land, scientists can investigate ancient volcanoes that erupted thousands of years ago under the glacier. Wooster geologists were with a team from Dickinson College on the scene of Ok volcano this summer, exploring a glaciovolcanic ridge that is now exposed on the southeast flank of Ok volcano.
View of Ok shield volcano from the south. Bræðravirki is the glaciovolcanic ridge on the southeast flank of Ok volcano. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
Another view of Bræðravirki ridge from the east. The summit of Ok volcano is off of the photo to the right. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
Most of Bræðravirki ridge is made of yellow ash that was erupted explosively and has been consolidated into a rock called tuff. The patterns in the rock tell us about how it formed. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
The tuff has a distinct yellow color that forms when the volcanic ash reacts with hot water. We also see glassy black rocks in the ash that we think are volcanic bombs, which form when lava is ejected violently during an explosive eruption. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
The ridge also has irregularly shaped bodies of massive rock. These are light gray and extremely hard, with a unique pattern of cracks that forms as the molten rock cools and solidifies. We think these are fingers of magma that get injected into the growing ash pile. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
Ok volcano and Bræðravirki ridge give us the opportunity to explore past climates and interactions between volcanoes and glaciers, helping us predict what might be in store for Iceland and other ice-covered volcanoes across the world. (Photo Credit: Hannah Grachen)
Look for us at the December 2019 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, CA (USA), where we will be presenting our findings from Bræðravirki ridge.