Given a uniform lithology and strain rate and a full seismic data set, the maximum depth of earthquakes may be viewed to a first order as an isotherm. These conditions are approached at the Hengill geothermal area S. Iceland, a dominantly basaltic area. The likely strain rate calculated from thermal and tectonic considerations is 10 −15 s −1 , and temperature measurements from four drill sites within the area indicate average, near-surface geothermal gradients of up to 150 °C km −1 throughout the upper 2 km. The temperature at which seismic failure ceases for the strain rates likely at the Hengill geothermal area is determined by analogy with oceanic crust, and is about 650 ± 50 °C. The topographies of the top and bottom of the seismogenic layer were mapped using 617 earthquakes located highly accurately by performing a simultaneous inversion for three-dimensional structure and hypocentral parameters. The thickness of the seismogenic layer is roughly constant and about 3 km. A shallow, aseismic, low-velocity volume within the spreading plate boundary that crosses the area occurs above the top of the seismogenic layer and is interpreted as an isolated body of partial melt. The base of the seismogenic layer has a maximum depth of about 6.5 km beneath the spreading axis and deepens to about 7 km beneath a transform zone in the south of the area. Beneath the high-temperature part of the geothermal area, the maximum depth of earthquakes may be as shallow as 4 km. The geothermal gradient below drilling depths in various parts of the area ranges from 84 ± 9 °Ckm −1 within the low-temperature geothermal area of the transform zone to 138 ± 15 °Ckm −1 below the centre of the high-temperature geothermal area. Shallow maximum depths of earthquakes and therefore high average geothermal gradients tend to correlate with the intensity of the geothermal area and not with the location of the currently active spreading axis.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 1995
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