Arctic Tectonics and Volcanism - AGU Chapman 2019

Last month, from the 13-18th October the AGU Chapman conference "Large-scale Volcanism in the Arctic: The Role of the Mantle and Tectonics" was held in Selfoss, Iceland. The conference was one of the major outcomes of the CEED-led project "NOR-R-AM" which is headed by CEED Director Carmen Gaina. The culmination of over 2 years of planning, the conference was a resounding success having brought together 100 international researchers from wide-ranging backgrounds and career stages. Continue below for some of the conference and field trip highlights, and not-to-be-missed drone shots! 

An Arctic Backdrop 

Iceland was chosen as a half way meeting point for the European and North American based communities, and what a stunning backdrop it provided to discuss all things Arctic; from the deep to atmosphere, and from present-day back to the Paleozoic. Hotel Selfoss served as a wonderful conference centre, and was located around 1.5 hour's drive to the east of Reykjavik. 

View from near conference centre at Selfoss by Christoph Beier

The conference program was divided between 5 themes:

I: rift-related magmatism 
II: seafloor spreading and ridge-related magmatism,
III: large-scale volcanism and the connection to mantle dynamics,
IV: subduction related volcanism, and
V: HALIP and environmental effects.


Some of the stops along the field trips
Some of the stops on the field trip

Funding for the conference included from the NOR-R-AM project (via the INTPART call of the Norwegian Research Council and DIKU), the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, and the National Science Foundation. A large part of the funding was used to subsidise early career attendees - which was a deliberate and important component of this meeting. Attendees were very diverse in background and affiliations; including those from the tectonics, geodynamics, numerical modelling, volcanology, geochemistry and geochronology communities and were from the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., Germany, Mexico, Denmark and Iceland. Attendees also represented government, industry and academia.

A HALIP centre piece

The talks and discussions aimed to address some of the outstanding regional questions, including the links between mantle heterogeneity and tectonic processes, the use of geochemical data in discriminating between alternative hypotheses, and the latest insights regarding the opening timing and kinematics of the Amerasia Basin.

From Gaina et al. (2014; Surv. Geophy.) Overview of the evolution of the Arctic region with an emphasis on the opening of main oceanic basins and volcanic episodes. Inferred volcanic periods are shown as horizontal pink bars. First-order sea-level changes and main climate regimes are also shown.

However, one significant theme throughout the week revolved around whether a single, unifying definition of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province (HALIP) can be adequately constrained. The HALIP event broadly refers to widespread intrusive and extrusive volcanism found across the Canadian Arctic Islands, Svalbard, New Siberian Islands, the Barents Shelf and the Alpha Ridge. A key discussion point is that the various dates of this event range between 130-80 Ma. Is this really attributable to a single mantle-derived plume? Do the geochemical signals conflate or help extract the various hypotheses? What are the next steps that the community can take as a whole to collecting data and developing new methods to test this? To kick off the week, John Tarduno, one of the first to propose the HALIP event, gave the icebreaker introduction. 

CEED out in force

CEED members featured heavily in across conference; conference convenors included Carmen Gaina and Grace Shephard, (along with Owen Anfinson (Sonoma State University) and Bernie Coakley (U. Alaska Fairbanks). Scientific committee members included Jan Inge Faleide and Morgan Jones (Morgan also helped during the field trips), keynotes including Thea Hatlen Heimdal as well as presenters Sasha Minakov, Asbjørn Breivik, Eivind Straume, Sverre Planke. A list of all participants and their can be found over at the conference website

AGU Chapman Arctic Conference convenors Grace Shephard, Owen Anfinson, Bernie Coakley and Carmen Gaina

The view from above

NOR-R-AM member and conference convenor Owen Anfinson (Sonoma State Uni.) brought along his drone and captured some spectacular scenery during the field trips (check out his @geologyfromabove Instagram account). During the mid week trip we travelled to the Western Rift Zone; Nesjavellir, Þingvellir, and Geysir. For those that stuck around for the post-conference trip the attendees went first to the South Iceland Seismic Zone (SISZ) on the Saturday and then to the Reykjanes Peninsula for the second day - and it was a wet and wild weather day indeed. Sadly, only the faintest of auroras was to be seen during the week. Some of the Twitter highlights can be found under #AGUChapmanArctic.

Below is a video compilation from the trip [or linked at ].


Chapman meetings were established to support small, topical meetings designed to permit in-depth exploration of specialized subjects in a manner not possible at large meetings. We would like to thank again the AGU office (including Heather, Judy, Amy and Lauren) for their fantastic support before and during the conference! A Special Issue with AGU is under development to follow up on the conference - so watch this space. 

The 100 participants from the AGU Chapman Arctic conference 2019. Photo: Lauren Parr (AGU)


By Grace Shephard
Published Nov. 20, 2019 5:56 AM - Last modified Apr. 23, 2020 6:37 AM