Geophysical signatures of oceanic core complexes

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Blackman, Donna K.
Canales, J. Pablo
Harding, Alistair J.
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Gravity anomalies and Earth structure
Marine magnetics and palaeomagnetics
Ocean drilling
Seismic tomography
Mid-ocean ridge processes
Submarine tectonics and volcanism
Oceanic core complexes (OCCs) provide access to intrusive and ultramafic sections of young lithosphere and their structure and evolution contain clues about how the balance between magmatism and faulting controls the style of rifting that may dominate in a portion of a spreading centre for Myr timescales. Initial models of the development of OCCs depended strongly on insights available from continental core complexes and from seafloor mapping. While these frameworks have been useful in guiding a broader scope of studies and determining the extent of OCC formation along slow spreading ridges, as we summarize herein, results from the past decade highlight the need to reassess the hypothesis that reduced magma supply is a driver of long-lived detachment faulting. The aim of this paper is to review the available geophysical constraints on OCC structure and to look at what aspects of current models are constrained or required by the data. We consider sonar data (morphology and backscatter), gravity, magnetics, borehole geophysics and seismic reflection. Additional emphasis is placed on seismic velocity results (refraction) since this is where deviations from normal crustal accretion should be most readily quantified. However, as with gravity and magnetic studies at OCCs, ambiguities are inherent in seismic interpretation, including within some processing/analysis steps. We briefly discuss some of these issues for each data type. Progress in understanding the shallow structure of OCCs (within ∼1 km of the seafloor) is considerable. Firm constraints on deeper structure, particularly characterization of the transition from dominantly mafic rock (and/or altered ultramafic rock) to dominantly fresh mantle peridotite, are not currently in hand. There is limited information on the structure and composition of the conjugate lithosphere accreted to the opposite plate while an OCC forms, commonly on the inside corner of a ridge-offset intersection. These gaps preclude full testing of current models. However, with the data in hand there are systematic patterns in OCC structure, such as the 1–2 Myr duration of this rifting style within a given ridge segment, the height of the domal cores with respect to surrounding seafloor, the correspondence of gravity highs with OCCs, and the persistence of corrugations that mark relative (palaeo) slip along the exposed detachment capping the domal cores. This compilation of geophysical results at OCCs should be useful to investigators new to the topic but we also target advanced researchers in our presentation and synthesis of findings to date.
Author Posting. © The Authors, 2009. This article is posted here by permission of John Wiley & Sons for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Journal International 178 (2009): 593-613, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04184.x.
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Geophysical Journal International 178 (2009): 593-613
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