Three-dimensional seismic structure of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge : an investigation of tectonic, magmatic, and hydrothermal processes in the Rainbow Area

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Dunn, Robert A.
Arai, Ryuta
Eason, Deborah E.
Canales, J. Pablo
Sohn, Robert A.
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Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Oceanic core complex
Seismic tomography
Rainbow hydrothermal field
Mid-ocean ridge
To test models of tectonic, magmatic, and hydrothermal processes along slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges, we analyzed seismic refraction data from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge INtegrated Experiments at Rainbow (MARINER) seismic and geophysical mapping experiment. Centered at the Rainbow area of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (36°14'N), this study examines a section of ridge with volcanically active segments and a relatively amagmatic ridge offset that hosts the ultramafic Rainbow massif and its high-temperature hydrothermal vent field. Tomographic images of the crust and upper mantle show segment-scale variations in crustal structure, thickness, and the crust-mantle transition, which forms a vertical gradient rather than a sharp boundary. There is little definitive evidence for large regions of sustained high temperatures and melt in the lower crust or upper mantle along the ridge axes, suggesting that melts rising from the mantle intrude as small intermittent magma bodies at crustal and subcrustal levels. The images reveal large rotated crustal blocks, which extend to mantle depths in some places, corresponding to off-axis normal fault locations. Low velocities cap the Rainbow massif, suggesting an extensive near-surface alteration zone due to low-temperature fluid-rock reactions. Within the interior of the massif, seismic images suggest a mixture of peridotite and gabbroic intrusions, with little serpentinization. Here diffuse microearthquake activity indicates a brittle deformation regime supporting a broad network of cracks. Beneath the Rainbow hydrothermal vent field, fluid circulation is largely driven by the heat of small cooling melt bodies intruded into the base of the massif and channeled by the crack network and shallow faults.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2017. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 122 (2017): 9580–9602, doi:10.1002/2017JB015051.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 122 (2017): 9580–9602
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