Transitions in axial morphology along the southeast Indian Ridge

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth
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Jul 10
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Shipboard bathymetric and magnetic profiles across the Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR) were analyzed in order to examine the nature of along-axis variations in axial morphology Rt this intermediate spreading rate ridge. Three types of axial morphology are observed along the SEIR: an axial high, a shallow (200-700 m deep) axial valley and a deep (>1000 m deep) axial valley. An axial high is found to the east of the Australian-Antarctic Discordance (AAD) (east of 128 degrees E) and between 82 degrees E and 104 degrees E. A shallow rift valley is found from 104 degrees E to 114 degrees E and from 82 degrees E westward past the Amerstdam/St. Paul hotspot (ASP) to about 30 degrees S, 75 degrees E. Deep rift valleys are found from 114 degrees E to 128 degrees E in the vicinity of the AAD and from the Indian Ocean Triple Junction (IOTJ) at 25 degrees S, 70 degrees E to about 30 degrees S, 75 degrees E. The transition near 30 degrees S occurs in an area of constant zero-age depth and does not appear to result from an increase in mantle temperature. It could be the result of the rapid increase in spreading rate along that portion of the SEIR. The most likely cause of the other transitions in axial morphology is variations in mantle temperature. The transitions between the different types of axial morphology are well defined and occur over a limited distance. Transitions in axial morphology are accompanied by significant changes in ridge flank topographic roughness. The transitions from axial valleys to axial highs are also accompanied by changes in the amplitude of the seafloor magnetic anomalies. Our observations suggest that there are distinct modes rather than a continuum of axial morphology on the SEIR and that there appears to be a ''threshold'' mechanism for a rapid change between different states of axial morphology. The ASP has only a limited influence on the SEIR. The ridge axis is marked by an axial valley for the entire distance from the IOTJ up to and past the ASP. The ridge axis becomes shallower as the ASP is approached from the northwest but only by about 300 m over a distance of 800 km. In addition, the ridge continues to become shallower away from Amsterdam Island toward the transition to an axial high at 82 degrees E, 350 km to the east of the ASP. The Kerguelen hotspot appears to exert a major influence on the morphology of the SEIR by feeding asthenospheric material to the ridge axis. A long, narrow finger-like gravity high extends ENE away from the Kerguelen Plateau for a distance of 500 km. Shipboard data show that the gravity high results from a large volcanic ridge. The ridge appears analogous to the Rodriguez Ridge extending from the Reunion hotspot toward the Central Indian Ridge. A series of lower and broader lineated gravity highs extend from the volcanic ridge toward the SEIR in the ridge segment between the 81 degrees E and 85 degrees E transforms, which is the westernmost segment with an axial high. The only region of significant off-ridge seismicity on the Antarctic flank of the SEIR is a diffuse band of epicenters extending from Kerguelen to the SEIR within the segment between the 81 degrees E and 85 degrees E fracture zones. The along-axis gradient in depth from 86 degrees E to the AAD and the transitions in axial morphology at 104 degrees E and 114 degrees E most likely reflect along-axis variations in mantle temperature and melt production rate due to distance from the Kerguelen hotspot and the influence of the AAD.


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