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Penetration of water into hot rock boundaries of magma at Grímsvötn


The Grímsvötn geothermal area is located within one of the most active caldera volcanoes in Iceland in the interior of the ice cap Vatnajökull at an altitude of 1,400 m (Fig. 1). Its setting oilers unique conditions for calorimetric measurement of the heat release from the subglacial geothermal system. The melting of ice due to the geothermal activity creates a depression in the surface of the ice cap. Ice and water are diverted towards the depression from a 300 km2 drainage basin. The meltwater accumulates in a 30 km2 subglacial lake. Periodic outbursts of water (jökulhlaups) drain the lake subglacially down to the Skeidarársandur plain. We propose here that penetration of water into hot rock is the primary reason for the intense heat release (5,000 MW thermal) of the subglacial Grimsvötn geothermal area. Injection of water into boundary rocks of magma should be considered as a method of heat exploitation.

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Björnsson, H., Björnsson, S. & Sigurgeirsson, T. Penetration of water into hot rock boundaries of magma at Grímsvötn. Nature 295, 580–581 (1982).

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