InSAR Observations and Finite Element Modeling of Crustal Deformation Around a Surging Glacier, Iceland

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Amandine Auriac1, Karsten Spaans2, Freysteinn Sigmundsson3, Andrew J Hooper2, Helgi Bjornsson4, Finnur Pálsson5, Virginie Pinel6 and Kurt L Feigl7, (1)University of Durham, Geography Department, Durham, United Kingdom, (2)University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, (3)University of Iceland, Nordic Volcanological Center, Institute of Earth Sciences, Reykjavik, Iceland, (4)Univ of Iceland, Iceland, Iceland, (5)University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland, (6)IRD, Le Bourget Du Lac, France, (7)University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, United States

Icelandic ice caps, covering ~11% of the country, are known to be surging glaciers. Such process implies an important local crustal subsidence due to the large ice mass being transported to the ice edge during the surge in a few months only. In 1993-1995, a glacial surge occurred at four neighboring outlet glaciers in the southwestern part of Vatnajökull ice cap, the largest ice cap in Iceland. We estimated that ~16±1 km3 of ice have been moved during this event while the fronts of some of the outlet glaciers advanced by ~1 km.

Surface deformation associated with this surge has been surveyed using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) acquisitions from 1992-2002, providing high resolution ground observations of the study area. The data show about 75 mm subsidence at the ice edge of the outlet glaciers following the transport of the large volume of ice during the surge (Fig. 1).

The long time span covered by the InSAR images enabled us to remove ~12 mm/yr of uplift occurring in this area due to glacial isostatic adjustment from the retreat of Vatnajökull ice cap since the end of the Little Ice Age in Iceland. We then used finite element modeling to investigate the elastic Earth response to the surge, as well as confirm that no significant viscoelastic deformation occurred as a consequence of the surge. A statistical approach based on Bayes' rule was used to compare the models to the observations and obtain an estimate of the Young’s modulus (E) and Poisson’s ratio (v) in Iceland. The best-fitting models are those using a one-kilometer thick top layer with v=0.17 and E between 12.9-15.3 GPa underlain by a layer with v=0.25 and E from 67.3 to 81.9 GPa. Results demonstrate that InSAR data and finite element models can be used successfully to reproduce crustal deformation induced by ice mass variations at Icelandic ice caps.

Fig. 1: Interferograms spanning 1993 July 31 to 1995 June 19, showing the surge at Tungnaárjökull (Tu.), Skaftárjökull (Sk.) and Síðujökull (Sí.) outlet glaciers. The black and grey arrows show the azimuth of the satellite and the look direction, respectively. (a) Wrapped interferogram showing the surge deformation (2π = 28.3 mm deformation). (b) Unwrapped interferogram with the black star as the reference area and negative values indicating line of sight lengthening (Auriac et al., 2014, doi:10.1093/gji/ggu205).