Volcanic plume height correlated with magma-pressure change at Grímsvötn Volcano, Iceland

Sigrún Hreinsdóttir, Freysteinn Sigmundsson, Matthew J. Roberts, Halldór Björnsson, Ronni Grapenthin, Pórdur Arason, Thóra Árnadóttir, Jósef Hólmjárn, Halldór Geirsson, Richard A. Bennett, Magnús T. Gudmundsson, Björn Oddsson, Benedikt G. Ófeigsson, Thierry Villemin, Thorsteinn Jónsson, Erik Sturkell, Ármann Höskuldsson, Gudrún Larsen, Thor Thordarson, Bergrún Arna Óladóttir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Magma flow during volcanic eruptions causes surface deformation that can be used to constrain the location, geometry and internal pressure evolution of the underlying magmatic source. The height of the volcanic plumes during explosive eruptions also varies with magma flow rate, in a nonlinear way. In May 2011, an explosive eruption at Grímsvötn Volcano, Iceland, erupted about 0.27 km 3 dense-rock equivalent of basaltic magma in an eruption plume that was about 20 km high. Here we use Global Positioning System (GPS) and tilt data, measured before and during the eruption at Grímsvötn Volcano, to show that the rate of pressure change in an underlying magma chamber correlates with the height of the volcanic plume over the course of the eruption. We interpret ground deformation of the volcano, measured by geodesy, to result from a pressure drop within a magma chamber at about 1.7 km depth. We estimate the rate of magma discharge and the associated evolution of the plume height by differentiating the co-eruptive pressure drop with time. The time from the initiation of the pressure drop to the onset of the eruption was about 60 min, with about 25% of the total pressure change preceding the eruption. Near-real-time geodetic observations can thus be useful for both timely eruption warnings and for constraining the evolution of volcanic plumes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-218
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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