A half-century of geologic and geothermic investigations in Iceland: The legacy of Kristján Sæmundsson

Barry Voight, Amy Clifton, Árni Hjartarson, Benedikt Steingrímsson, Bryndís Brandsdóttir, Carolina Rodríguez, David McGarvie, Freysteinn Sigmundsson, Gretar Ívarsson, Guðmundur Ómar Friðleifsson, Guðrún Larsen, Guðrún Sigríður Jónsdóttir, Horst Noll, Ian McDougall, Ingibjörg Kaldal, Ingvar Birgir Friðleifsson, James L. Aronson, Jeffrey A. Karson, Karl Grönvold, Kirby D. YoungLeó Kristjánsson, Magnús Sigurgeirsson, Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, Mark Jancin, Ólafur G. Flóvenz, Páll Einarsson, Richard S. Williams, Roger Buck, Sigríður Pálmadóttir, Walter Friedrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


One of the World's premier field geologists, Kristján Sæmundsson led immense geological mapping programs and authored or co-authored nearly all geological maps of Iceland during the past half century, including the first modern bedrock and tectonic maps of the whole country. These monumental achievements collectively yield the most inclusive view of an extensional plate boundary anywhere on Earth. When Kristján began his work in 1961, the relation of Iceland to sea-floor spreading was not clear, and plate tectonics had not yet been invented. Kristján resolved key obstacles by demonstrating that the active rifting zones in Iceland had shifted over time and were linked by complex transforms to the mid-ocean spreading ridge, thus making the concept of sea-floor spreading in Iceland acceptable to those previously skeptical. Further, his insights and vast geological and tectonic knowledge on both high- and low-temperature geothermal areas in Iceland yielded a major increase in knowledge of geothermal systems, and probably no one has contributed more than he to Icelandic energy development. Kristján's legacy is comprised by his numerous superb maps on a variety of scales, the high quality papers he produced, the impactful ideas generated that were internationally diffused, and the generations of colleagues and younger people he inspired, mentored, or otherwise positively influenced with his knowledge and generous attitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106434
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Geochronology
  • Geomagnetism
  • Geothermal activity
  • Iceland
  • Mid-ocean ridge
  • Plate tectonics
  • Rift tectonics
  • Sea-floor spreading
  • Transform fault
  • Volcanic eruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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