Post-rifting stress relaxation at the divergent plate boundary in Northeast Iceland

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Interaction of the elastic lithosphere with the underlying anelastic asthenosphere causes strain to propagate along the Earth's surface in a diffusion-like manner following tectonism at plate boundaries. This process transfers stress between adjacent tectonic segments and influences the temporal tectonic pattern along a plate boundary. Observations of such strain transients have been rare, and have hitherto been confined to strike-slip and underthrusting plate boundaries1. Here we report the observation of a strain transient at the divergent (spreading) plate boundary in Iceland. A Global Positioning System survey undertaken a decade after an episode of dyke intrusion accompanying several metres of crustal spreading reveals a spatially varying strain field with the expected diffusion-pulse shape and an amplitude three times greater than the 5.7 cm that would be expected from the average spreading rate2. A simple one-dimensional model with a thin elastic layer overlying a viscous layer fits the data well and yields a stress diffusivity of 1.1 ?? 0.3 m2 s-1. Combined with struc-tural information from magnetotelluric measurements, this implies a viscosity of 0.3-2 ?? 1019 Pa s - a value comparable to that derived for Iceland from post-glacial rebound23, but low compared with estimates for mantle viscosity obtained elsewhere3.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Post-rifting stress relaxation at the divergent plate boundary in Northeast Iceland
Series title Nature
Volume 358
Issue 6386
Year Published 1992
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Nature
First page 488
Last page 490
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