The volumetric evolution of Surtsey has been estimated on the basis of digital elevation models derived from NASA scanning airborne laser altimeter surveys (20 July 1998), as well as digitized 1:5,000-scale topographic maps produced by the National Land Survey of Iceland and by Norrman. Subaerial volumes have been computed from co-registered digital elevation models (DEM's) from 6 July 1968, 11 July 1975, 16 July 1993, and 20 July 1998 (scanning airborne laser altimetry), as well as true surface area (above mean sea level). Our analysis suggests that the subaerial volume of Surtsey has been reduced from nearly 0.100 km3 on 6 July 1968 to 0.075 km3 on 20 July 1998. Linear regression analysis of the temporal evolution of Surtsey's subaerial volume indicates that most of its subaerial surface will be at or below mean sea-level by approximately 2100. This assumes a conservative estimate of continuation of the current pace of marine erosion and mass-wasting on the island, including the indurated core of the conduits of the Surtur I and Surtur II eruptive vents. If the conduits are relatively resistant to marine erosion they will become sea stacks after the rest of the island has become a submarine shoal, and some portions of the island could survive for centuries. The 20 July 1998 scanning laser altimeter surveys further indicate rapid enlargement of erosional canyons in the northeastern portion of the partial tephra ring associated with Surtur I. Continued airborne and eventually spaceborne topographic surveys of Surtsey are planned to refine the inter-annual change of its subaerial volume.
Additional publication details
Volumetric evolution of Surtsey, Iceland, from topographic maps and scanning airborne laser altimetry