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Publication Detail
The chemistry and element fluxes of the July 2011 Múlakvísl and Kaldakvísl glacial floods, Iceland
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Journal Article
  • Authors:
    Galeczka I, Oelkers EH, Gislason SR
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    41, 57
  • Journal:
    Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
  • Volume:
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
This study describes the chemical composition and fluxes of two ~2000m3/s glacial floods which emerged from the Icelandic Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers into the Múlakvísl and Kaldakvísl rivers in July 2011. Water samples collected during both floods had neutral to alkaline pH and conductivity from 100 to 900μS/cm. The total dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), present mostly as HCO3-, was ~9mmol/kg during the flood peak in the Múlakvísl but stabilized at around 1mmol/kg; a similar behaviour was observed in the Kaldakvísl. Up to 1.5μmol/kg of H2S was detected. Concentrations of most of the dissolved constituents in the flood waters were comparable to those commonly observed in these rivers. In contrast, the particulate suspended material concentration increased dramatically during the floods and dominated chemical transport during these events. Waters were supersaturated with respect to a number of clays, zeolites, carbonates, and Fe hydroxides. The most soluble elements were Na, Ca, K, Sr, Mn, and Mg, whereas the least soluble were Ti, Al, and REE. This is consistent with the compositions of typical surface waters in basaltic terrains and the compositions of global rivers in general. The toxic metal concentrations were below drinking water limits, suggesting that there was no detrimental effect of flood waters chemistry on the environment. Increased concentration of DOC, formate, and acetate in the flood waters suggests substantial subglacial microbiological activity in the melt water prior to the floods. Reaction path modelling of the flood water chemical evolution suggests that it experienced subglacial water-rock interaction for at least a year in the presence of limited amounts of acid gases (e.g. SO2, HCl and HF). This suggests that the heat source for glacier melting was geothermal rather than volcanic. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
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