EGU23-16613, updated on 25 Apr 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Iceland: mantle plume or microcontinent? A zircon study

Alexander Peace1, Jordan Phethean2, Yang Li3, and Gillian Foulger4
Alexander Peace et al.
  • 1School of Earth, Environment and Society, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1,
  • 2School of Built and Natural Environment, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby DE22 1GB, UK
  • 3School of Earth and Space Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom

In recent years, unexpected continental crust in areas presumed to be purely oceanic in nature has been discovered, indicated by the presence of Paleozoic zircons in rock samples. Notable examples include the Rio Grande Rise, Mauritius, and potentially also the Comoros islands, which have all previously been interpreted as mantle plume edifices. Iceland is also often interpreted as a hotspot of mantle plume origin, however the presence of a deep seated consistent thermal anomaly with depth has long been challenged, with implications for the wider regional geodynamic evolution.

Previous reports of Mesozoic and Paleozoic zircons from Iceland may allude to the presence of continental material at depth, although these are sometimes suggested to be the result of contamination. Nonetheless, geochemical evidence from erupted material at Öræfajökull may indicate a continental contribution to melts beneath SE Iceland, and the nearby Jan Mayen microcontinent readily demonstrates the ability of continental material to make its way to the ocean interior, coincident with hotspot volcanism. Furthermore, continental material in the NE Atlantic Ocean is perhaps more common than previously thought, with recent work suggesting that substantial components of the Greenland-Iceland-Faeroes region may be continental in nature.

Here, we test the hypothesis that the basaltic upper crust of Iceland is underlain by older continental crust. To do this, we have undertaken extensive, targeted sampling of Icelandic rocks and sediments using robust collection approaches to eliminate the possibility of contamination. Over a 3-week period in summer 2022, we collected samples from across the entirety of Iceland. We sampled both intrusive and extrusive rocks with a wide range of ages (both felsic and mafic, but with an emphasis on felsic rocks), as well as river sediments from above 250 m elevation (to avoid potential contamination from Greenland glacial debris). Zircons will be separated from these samples using contamination-safe approaches, and then U-Pb and Hf isotopic age analysis will be completed. The results from this preliminary study will be used to guide further sampling in summer 2023, allowing evaluation of the competing hypothesises for the origin of Iceland.

How to cite: Peace, A., Phethean, J., Li, Y., and Foulger, G.: Iceland: mantle plume or microcontinent? A zircon study, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-16613,, 2023.