The 1783 Lakagigar eruption in Iceland: geochemistry, CO2 and sulfur degassing

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About 12.3 km3 of basaltic magma were erupted from the Lakagigar fissure in Iceland in 1783, which may have been derived from the high-level reservoir of Grimsvotn central volcano, by lateral flow within the rifted crust. We have studied the petrology of quenched, glassy tephra from sections through pyroclastic cones along the fissure. The chemical composition of matrix glass of the 1783 tephra is heterogeneous and ranges from olivine tholeiite to Fe-Ti rich basalt, but the most common magma erupted is quartz tholeiite (Mg#43.6 to 37.2). The tephra are characterized by low crystal content (5 to 9 vol%). Glass inclusions trapped in plagioclase and Fo86 to Fo75 olivine phenocrysts show a large range of compositions, from primitive olivine tholeiite (Mg#64.3), quartz tholeiite (Mg#43-37), to Fe-Ti basalts (Mg#33.5) which represent the most differentiated liquids and are trapped as rare melt inclusions in clinopyroxene. Both matrix glass and melt inclusion data indicate a chemically heterogeneous magma reservoir, with quartz tholeiite dominant. LREE-depleted olivine-tholeiite melt-inclusions in Mg-rich olivine and anorthitic-plagioclase phenocrysts may represent primitive magma batches ascending into the reservoir at the time of the eruption. Vesicularity of matrix glasses correlates with differentiation, ranging from 10 to 60 vol.% in evolved quartz-tholeiite glasses, whereas olivine-tholeiite glasses contain less than 10 vol.% vesicles. FTIR analyses of olivine-tholeiite melt-inclusions indicate concentrations of 0.47 wt% H2O and 430 to 510 ppm for CO2. Chlorine in glass inclusions and matrix glasses increases from 50 ppm in primitive tholeiite to 230 ppm in Fe-Ti basalts, without clear evidence of degassing. Melt inclusion analyses show that sulfur varies from 915 ppm to 1970 ppm, as total FeO* increases from 9 to 13.5 wt%. Sulfur degassing correlates both with vesicularity and magma composition. Thus sulfur in matrix glasses decreases from 1490 ppm to 500 ppm, as Mg # decreases from 47 to 37 and vesicularity of the magma strongly increases. These results indicate loss of at least 75% of sulfur during the eruption. The correlation of low sulfur content in matrix glasses with high vesicularity is regarded as evidence of the control of a major exsolving volatile phase on the degassing efficiency of the magma. Our model is consistent a quasi-permanent CO2 flux through the shallow-level magmatic reservoir of Grimsvotn. Following magma withdrawal from the reservoir and during eruption from the Lakagigar fissure, sulfur degassing was controlled by inherent CO2-induced vesicularity of the magma. © 1991 Springer-Verlag.

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Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology