Thursday, July 14, 2022

Field Photos: Iceland

More pictures arrived from different parts of the world. My friends visiting Iceland and the Alps sent me some stunning photos of landscapes and geology. 


All pics by Biju Mohan.

Lava flows forming gentler slopes and steep rock faces. Notice the rough columnar jointing in the upper lava flow.

Where basalt plateau meets the sea. Cliffs and a wave cut platform.

Volcanic cone and crater.

A fissure or a crack through which lava would have poured out. These are present all over Iceland.  

Iceland predominantly has basalt volcanism, broadly the same rock type as the Deccan. It is one of the few locations where the Mid-Atlantic spreading center is exposed above sea level. This is a divergent plate boundary, where the European and North American tectonic plates (along with some micro-plates) are moving away from each other.

Biju asked me an interesting question; "Did the deccan area looked like present day Iceland sometime in the past? Is there evidence for numerous volcanoes in the Deccan?

Yes, a young Deccan volcanic terrain would have looked similar to Iceland in some aspects. Since in both places, the crust was pulled apart by extensional forces, long fissures or cracks formed and were the main passageways for magma to come to the surface. These fissures from where lava came out would have been visible in a young Deccan. They have eroded away now. What is left are dike swarms, essentially cracks plugged by sheets of magma. Many of these dikes represent the feeder passages from which lava ascended to the surface. So, an exhumed lower level is now visible. Volcanic cones would also have been visible. These have mostly been eroded away in the Deccan.

As such Deccan would not have seen the development of very large steep cones, since the lava type is runny, and does not pile up much to build cones. Iceland though, besides basalts,  has more of a silica rich sticky lava type, with more explosive volcanism,  and a more pronounced development of steeper volcanic cones. Remember the Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano that erupted in April 2010?

Fresh lava fields would have been clearly demarcated. In young volcanic terrains it is easier to pick out discrete eruptive episodes. Lava fields erupting from different vents overlap. Slightly older lava will change color due to weathering and also get colonized by plants. Fresher lava fields will be barren and likely steaming as well! In the much older Deccan , erosion has erased such differences. Exhumation doesn't always expose a pristine surface, rather a patchwork of vertical sections where one gets a two dimensional view is the common outcrop pattern, making recognition of such lava fields challenging to the untrained eye. 

Another similarity would have been the presence of active hydrothermal systems. Today, the Deccan volcanic system is extinct, but 65 million years ago, groundwater would have been heated by flowing through hot rock and proximity to magma. Fumaroles and hot springs would have been a common phenomenon. I have been collecting secondary minerals from the Deccan Traps since my college days, and I would have loved to have wandered through a young Deccan volcanic terrain, where hot mineral saturated water were depositing silica, calcite, and zeolite minerals in cracks and cavities of the basalts. 

The oldest lava flows in Iceland are mid- Miocene in age. Erosion has been sculpting landscapes for a good 15 million years. The result is some uncanny similarities with the Deccan. The 'Trap' topography, alternations between gentler and steeper slopes is also seen in Iceland. And along the Konkan coast, basalt and laterite sea cliffs look over flat wave cut platforms just like the Iceland coast. 

Sea cliff and a wave cut bench, Harnai, Konkan.


I'll close with this beautiful Iceland landscape. 

Coming soon.. Dolomite Alps and a geological conundrum.


  1. Sir, anything can be known of pre-deccan Konkan region. Do we have any soil/rock samples dating to pre-66 million years period

    1. yes, there are Pre-Cambrian age rocks in south Konkan, in Sindhudurg district.

  2. Thanks. That clarifies a few of my doubts.