The Origin of Bathymetric Highs at Ridge-Transform Intersections - a Multidisciplinary Case-Study at the Clipperton Fracture-Zone

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Marine Geophysical Researches
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Bathmetric highs on the old crust proximal to ridge-transform intersections (RTIs), termed ''intersection highs'', are common but poorly understood features at offsets of fast to intermediate rate spreading centers. We have combined new reflection seismic, photographic, and geochemical data with previously published Seabeam, SeaMARC I, and SeaMARC II data to address the nature of the intersection highs at the Clipperton Fracture Zone. The Clipperton Intersection Highs are both topped by a carapace of young lavas at least 100 m thick. These lavas, which were erupted on the intersection highs, are chemically similar to their adjacent ridge segments and different from the surrounding older crust. At least some of the erupted magma traveled directly from the adjacent ridge at a shallow crustal level. Ridge-related magma covers and intrudes at least the upper 500 m of the transform tectonized crust at the RTI. We suspect that additional magma enters the intersection highs from directly below, without passing through the ridge. The young oceanic crust near the western Clipperton RTI is not thin by regional comparison. The 1.4 m.y. old crust near the eastern Clipperton RTI thickens approaching the transform offset. If the thermal effects of the proximal ridge were negligible, the eastern intersection high crust would appear to be in isostatic equilibrium. We believe that thermal effects are significant, and that the intersection high region stands anomalously shallow for its crustal thickness. This is attributable to increased temperature in the mantle below the ridge-proximal crust. Although ridge magma is injected into the proximal old crust, plate boundary reorganization is not taking place. Intersection high formation has been an ongoing process at both of the Clipperton RTIs for at least the past 1 m.y., during which time the plate boundary configuration has not changed appreciably. We envision a constant interplay between the intruding ridge magma and the disrupting transform fault motion. In addition, we envision a nearly constant input of magma from below the high, as an extension of the magma supply to the ridge from the mantle. Because the proximal ridge profoundly affects the juxtaposed crust at the RTI, sea floor fabric along the aseismic extensions of this fast-slipping transform fault is primarily a record of processes at work at the RTI rather than a record of transform tectonism.


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