Variations in upper crustal structure due to variable mantle temperature along the Southeast Indian Ridge

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Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems
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Nov 4
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There is a systematic variation in axial morphology and axial depth along the Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR) with distance away from the Australian Antarctic Discordance, an area of cold uppermost mantle. Since spreading rate (72-76 mm/yr) and mantle geochemistry appear constant along this portion of the SEIR, the observed variations in axial morphology and axial depth are attributed to a gradient in mantle temperature. In this study, we report results from a multichannel seismic investigation of on-axis crustal structure along this portion of the SEIR. Three distinct forms of ridge crest morphology are found within our study area: axial highs, rifted axial highs, and shallow axial valleys. Axial highs have a shallow (similar to 1500 m below seafloor (bsf)) magma lens and a thin (similar to 300 m) layer 2A along the ridge crest. Rifted axial highs have a deeper (similar to 2100 m bsf) magma lens and thicker (similar to 450 m) layer 2A on-axis. Beneath shallow axial valleys, no magma lens is imaged, and layer 2A is thick (similar to 450 + m). There are step-like transitions in magma lens depth and layer 2A thickness with changes in morphology along the SEIR. The transitions between the different modes of axial morphology and shallow structure are abrupt, suggesting a threshold-type mechanism. Variations in crustal structure along the SEIR appear to be steady state, persisting for at least 1 m.y. Portions of segments in which a magma lens is found are characterized by lower relief abyssal hills on the ridge flank, shallower ridge flank depths, and at the location of along-axis Mantle Bouguer Anomaly (MBA) lows. The long-wavelength variation in ridge morphology along the SEIR from axial high segments to the west to axial valley segments to the east is linked to the regional gradient in mantle temperature. Superimposed on the long-wavelength trend are segment to segment variations that are related to the absolute motion of the SEIR to the northeast which influence mantle melt production and delivery to the ridge.


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Doi 10.1029/2005gc000943