2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 56-15
Presentation Time: 5:15 PM


OLDFIELD, Lauren, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster Univerisity, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada, MACLACHLAN, John C., School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada and LEE, Rebecca E., School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada, oldfiele@mcmaster.ca

Through the use of collaborative writing groups in the McMaster University upper year course Glacial Sediments and Environments an opportunity rose for groups of undergraduate students to write a paper for peer review to the journal Cartographica. Within this process a group of six undergraduate students formulated a research question delving into the potential risks and safety precautions associated with the Katla-Mýrdalsjökull glacier-volcano complex in Iceland. The subglacial volcano Katla and its associated glacier Mýrdalsjökull, near Iceland’s southern coast, have the potential to cause catastrophic jökulhlaups through geothermally induced melting and volcanic eruptions. The resulting jökulhlaups can cause destruction of property and detriment to human life. Jökulhlaup is the Icelandic term for a sudden and substantial release of subglacial and/or proglacial water. As well, ice cauldrons, which are water-filled ice depression that can be seen remotely, can be identified through remote sensing and used to infer potential locations of geothermal hotspots and their associated melting rates. This information can be combined to assess the risk of a future jökulhlaups and its impact on the surrounding communities and infrastructure. Furthermore, a map of geothermal hot spots, loss of glacial mass, and meltwater flow paths of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier were created and analysed. Using geospatial analysis, it was determined that three hazard zones – two towns, Alftaver (to the east) and Vik (to the south), as well as Iceland’s main highway, Route 1 – are directly in the path of potential jökulhlaups originating from the Mýrdalsjökull-Katla complex. Future research should further constrain meltwater flow paths to determine potential flow discharge rates and areas that are at the greatest risk of flooding. This research can be used as an analogue for modern environments and for paleo-environmental reconstruction.

The results of this research have been published:

McNeil-Jewer, C.A., Vu, J., Oldfield, L.E., Fisher, S.J., Paddey, M.D., Anderson, R.J. 2015. Mapping the Impacts of Iceland’s Katla Subglacial Volcano on the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. Cartographica, 50(3), pp. 195-203