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ArticleOceanic detachment faults generate compression in extension(Geological Society of America, 2017-08) Parnell-Turner, Ross ; Sohn, Robert A. ; Peirce, Christine ; Reston, Tim J. ; MacLeod, Christopher J. ; Searle, Roger C. ; Simão, Nuno MendesIn extensional geologic systems such as mid-ocean ridges, deformation is typically accommodated by slip on normal faults, where material is pulled apart under tension and stress is released by rupture during earthquakes and magmatic accretion. However, at slowly spreading mid-ocean ridges where the tectonic plates move apart at rates <80 km m.y.–1, these normal faults may roll over to form long-lived, low-angled detachments that exhume mantle rocks and form corrugated domes on the seabed. Here we present the results of a local micro-earthquake study over an active detachment at 13°20′N on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to show that these features can give rise to reverse-faulting earthquakes in response to plate bending. During a 6 month survey period, we observed a remarkably high rate of seismic activity, with >244,000 events detected along 25 km of the ridge axis, to depths of ∼10 km below seafloor. Surprisingly, the majority of these were reverse-faulting events. Restricted to depths of 3–7 km below seafloor, these reverse events delineate a band of intense compressional seismicity located adjacent to a zone of deeper extensional events. This deformation pattern is consistent with flexural models of plate bending during lithospheric accretion. Our results indicate that the lower portion of the detachment footwall experiences compressive stresses and deforms internally as the fault rolls over to low angles before emerging at the seafloor. These compressive stresses trigger reverse faulting even though the detachment itself is an extensional system.
ArticleSeismicity trends and detachment fault structure at 13 degrees N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge(Geological Society of America, 2020-11-04) Parnell-Turner, Ross ; Sohn, Robert A. ; Peirce, Christine ; Reston, Tim J. ; MacLeod, Christopher J. ; Searle, Roger C. ; Simão, Nuno MendesAt slow-spreading ridges, plate separation is commonly partly accommodated by slip on long-lived detachment faults, exposing upper mantle and lower crustal rocks on the seafloor. However, the mechanics of this process, the subsurface structure, and the interaction of these faults remain largely unknown. We report the results of a network of 56 ocean-bottom seismographs (OBSs), deployed in 2016 at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near 13°N, that provided dense spatial coverage of two adjacent detachment faults and the intervening ridge axis. Although both detachments exhibited high levels of seismicity, they are separated by an ∼8-km-wide aseismic zone, indicating that they are mechanically decoupled. A linear band of seismic activity, possibly indicating magmatism, crosscuts the 13°30′N domed detachment surface, confirming previous evidence for fault abandonment. Farther south, where the 2016 OBS network spatially overlapped with a similar survey done in 2014, significant changes in the patterns of seismicity between these surveys are observed. These changes suggest that oceanic detachments undergo previously unobserved cycles of stress accumulation and release as plate spreading is accommodated.