Detailed studies of the structure, tectonics, near bottom magnetic anomalies and microearthquake seismicity of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near 37°N
Macdonald, Ken C.
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KeywordSubmarine geology; Geophysics; Geomorphology; Plate tectonics; Knorr (Ship : 1970-) Cruise KN31
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is one of the most well known and yet poorly understood spreading centers in the world. A detailed investigation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge crest near 37°N (FAMOUS) was conducted using a deeply towed instrument package. The objective was to study the detailed structure and spreading history of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge median valley, to explore the roles of volcanism and faulting in the evolution of oceanic crust, and to study the morphologic expression and structural history of the zone of crustal accretion. In addition, microearthquake surveys were conducted using arrays of free-floating hydrophones. The most recent expression of the accreting plate boundary in the Famous Rift is an alternating series of linear central volcanoes and depressions 1.5 km wide which lie within the inner floor. This lineament is marked by a sharp maximum in crustal magnetization only 2-3 km wide. Magnetic studies indicate that over 90% of the extrusive volcanism occurs within the rift inner floor, a zone 1 to 12 km wide, while volcanism is extremely rare in the rift mountains. Volcanoes created in the inner floor are transported out on, block faults, becoming a lasting part of the topography. Magnetic anomaly transition widths vary from 1 km to 8 km with time and appear to reflect a bi-stable median valley structure. The valley has either a wide inner floor and narrow terraces, in which case the volcanic zone is wide and magnetic anomalies are poorly recorded (wide transition widths); or it has a narrow inner floor and wide terraces, the volcanic zone is then narrow and anomalies are clearly recorded (narrow transition widths). The median valley of any ridge segment varies between these two structures with time. At present the. Famous Rift has a narrow inner floor and volcanic zone (1-3 km) while the south Famous Rift is at the opposite end of the cycle with a wide inner floor and volcanic zone (10-12 km). Over 95% of the large scale (>2 km) relief of the median valley is accounted for by normal faults dipping toward the valley axis. Normal faulting along fault planes dipping away from the valley begins just past the outer walls of the valley. Outward facing normal faulting accounts for most of the decay of median valley relief in the rift mountains while crustal tilting accounts for less than 20%. The pattern of normal faulting creates a broad, undulating horst and graben relief. Volcanic features contribute little to the large scale relief, but contribute to the short wavelength (<2km) roughness of the topography. Spreading in the Famous area is highly asymmetric with rates twice as high to the east as to the west. At 1.7 m.y.b.p. the sense of asymmetry reverses in direction with spreading faster to the west, resulting in a gross symmetry when averaged through time. The change in spreading asymmetry occurred in less than 0.15 m.y. Structural studies indicate that the asymmetric spreading is accomplished through asymmetric crustal extension as well as asymmetric crustal accretion. Spreading in the Famous area is 17° oblique. Even on a fine scale there is no indication of readjustment to an orthogonal plate boundary system. Spreading has been stably oblique for at least 6 m.y., even through a change in spreading direction. Magnetic studies reveal that the deep DSDP hole at site 332 was drilled into a magnetic polarity transition, and may have sampled rocks which recorded the earth i s field behavior during a reversal. The presence of negative polarity crust within the Brunhes normal epoch in the inner floor has been determined, and may be due to old crust left behind or recording of a geomagnetic field event. Crustal magnetization decays to lie of its initial value in less than 0.6 m.y. The rapid decay may be facillitated by very intense crustal fracturing observed in the inner floor. Microearthquake, magnetic and structural studies indicate that both the spreading and transform plate boundaries are very narrow (1-2 km) and well-defined for short periods, but migrate over zones 10-20 km wide through time.
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, 1975
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