The crustal structure and subsidence history of aseismic ridges and mid-plate island chains
Detrick, Robert S.
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KeywordCoral reefs and islands; Sea-floor spreading; Plate tectonics; Ocean bottom; Submarine geology; Marine geophysics
This thesis consists of three papers examining problems related to the crustal structure, isostasy and subsidence history of aseismic ridges and mid-plate island chains. Analysis of gravity and bathymetry data across the Ninetyeast and eastern Walvis Ridges indicates these features are locally compensated by an over thickening of the oceanic crust. Maximum crustal thicknesses are 15-30 km. The western Walvis Ridge is also compensated by crustal thickening; however, the isostasy of this part of the ridge is best explained by a plate model of compensation with elastic plate thicknesses of 5-8 km. These results are consistent with the formation of the Ninetyeast and Walvis Ridges near spreading centers on young lithosphere with flexural rigidities at least an order of magnitude less than those typically determined from flexural studies in older parts of the ocean basins. As the lithosphere cools and thickens, its rigidity increases, explaining the differences in isostasy between aseismic ridges and mid-plate island chains. The long-term subsidence of aseismic ridges and island/ seamount chains can also be explained entirely by lithospheric cooling. Aseismic ridges form near ridge crests and subside at nearly the same rate as normal oceanic crust Mid-plate island chains subside at slower rates because they are built on older crust. However, some island chains have subsided faster than expected based on the age of the surrounding sea floor, probably because of lithospheric thinning over midplate hot spots, like Hawaii. This lithospheric thinning model has major implications both for lithospheric and mantle convection studies as well as the origin of continental rift systems.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution September 1978
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