Remote sensing studies of the geomorphology of Surtsey, 1987-1991

Surtsey Research Progress Report
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The volcanic island of Surtsey, formed by explosive submarine and effusive subaerial eruptions between November 1963 and June 1967, consists of a complex combination of primary and redeposited tephra and alkaline olivine basalt lava flows in a 2.5 km2 area (Thorarinsson, 1967; Thorarinsson et al., 1964; Fridriksson, 1975). During the past 24 years, wave and wind erosion of this subaerial mid-ocean ridge (MOR) vent complex have modified Surtsey's coastal morphology, including the deposition of a 0.5 km-long northern peninsula (ness) composed of tephra and rounded lava fragments derived from the southern half of the island. Detailed geomorphologic and sedimentologic mapping of the various surface units now present on Surtsey has been accomplished throughout the history of the evolving island, most recently by Calles et al. (1980) and Ingolfsson (1980). On the basis of these studies, an effort to quantify the topographic characteristics of the primary geomorphic units on the island was initiated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1987. The objective has been to directly measure the microtopographic properties of the widest range of surface types possible, with special emphasis on the pristine or dynamic types. While large-scale topographic maps of Surtsey were prepared in 1968 and 1975 (Norrman, 1980; Norrman and Erlingsson, 1991; Calles et al, 1980), and geodetic leveling surveys have been carried out (Moore, 1980), there have been no recent attempts to geodetically determine the local topography of the island. Because of the rapid rates of geomorphic processes, such as erosion and deposition, on a small, geologically isolated volcanic island such as Surtsey, it is desirable to determine the meter-scale topographic character of its surface units and landforms, and later a remeasurement of the same surfaces to further quantify volumetric change, subsidence, and process rates. In addition, precise measurements of sub-meter-scale topography of pristine geologic surfaces provides necessary data for the investigation of whether various geologic processes demonstrate fractal or self-affine behavior at a range of length-scales within the interval 0.1 in to 1 km. Thus Surtsey offers a unique opportunity to apply new remote sensing techniques to the measurement of the evolving surface "roughness" characteristics of pristine geologic surfaces within an historically well-monitored environment.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Remote sensing studies of the geomorphology of Surtsey, 1987-1991
Series title Surtsey Research Progress Report
Volume 10
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher The Surtsey Research Society
Publisher location Reykjavik, Iceland
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 57
Last page 71
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