Recent diking episodes along slow spreading boundaries included the generation of normal faults, showing that extension is accommodated, on a scale of a few years or less, by both magma intrusion and fault movement. Here we aim to define how diking may affect the overall rift structure on the longer term (≥100 yr). We first summarize the main features of the transient diking episodes as obtained from geological, geophysical, geodetic, and modeling studies. We then put these episodes into a broader context, considering the overall longer term shallow and deep structure of the plate boundaries. The synthesis of the data shows that in Iceland crustal extension at depth largely occurs by means of dikes, with negligible normal faulting; faults focus toward the surface (<1 km depth), forming dike-induced grabens commonly propagating downward; along-rift diking episodes (1 in ∼200 yr) may induce all the observed surface deformation. The close similarities with transitional (Afar Rift) and magmatic continental rifts (East African Rift System) suggest that repeated diking induces most of the surface deformation along slowly spreading (≤2 cm/yr) magmatic plate boundaries. The frequency of diking and the induced strain may not allow extension to be accommodated amagmatically, through creep or seismic or aseismic faulting. This implies that a diking episode locks any amagmatic faulting until the strain is released (centuries), when the subsequent diking episode occurs, with the cumulative result of controlling and shaping the evolution of slow spreading magmatic plate boundaries. This process appears independent of the stage of magmatic rifting.
- Received 23 September 2015.
- Revision received 25 January 2016.
- Accepted 18 February 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America