Deformation during the 1975-1984 Krafla rifting crisis, NE Iceland, measured from historical optical imagery

James Hollingsworth, Sébastien Leprince, Franois Ayoub, Jean Philippe Avouac

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57 Citations (Scopus)


We measure the displacement field resulting from the 1975-1984 Krafla rifting crisis, NE Iceland, using optical image correlation. Images are processed using the COSI-Corr software package. Surface extension is accommodated on normal faults and fissures which bound the rift zone, in response to dike injection at depth. Correlation of declassified KH-9 spy and SPOT5 satellite images reveals extension between 1977-2002 (2.5m average opening over 80km), while correlation of aerial photos between 1957-1990 provide measurements of the total extension (average 4.3m opening over 80km). Our Results show ∼8m of opening immediately north of Krafla caldera, decreasing to 3-4m at the northern end of the rift. Correlation of aerial photos from 1957-1976 reveal a bi-modal pattern of opening along the rift during the early crisis, which may indicate either two different magma sources located at either end of the rift zone (a similar pattern of opening was observed in the 2005 Afar rift crisis in East Africa), or variations in rock strength along the rift. Our Results provide new information on how past dike injection events accommodate long-term plate spreading, as well as providing more details on the Krafla rift crisis. This study also highlights the potential of optical image correlation using inexpensive declassified spy satellite and aerial photos to measure deformation of the Earth's surface going back many decades, thus providing a new tool for measuring Earth surface dynamics, e.g. glaciers, landsliding, coastal erosion, volcano monitoring and earthquake studies, when InSAR and GPS data are not available.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberB11407
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2012


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