Seamount volcanism along the Gakkel Ridge, Arctic Ocean

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Geophysical Journal International
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The Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean is the slowest spreading portion of the global mid-ocean ridge system. Total spreading rates vary from 12.8 mm yr(-1) near Greenland to 6.5 mm yr(-1) at the Siberian margin. Melting models predict a dramatic decrease in magma production and resulting crustal thickness at these low spreading rates. At slow spreading ridges, small volcanic seamounts are a dominant morphologic feature of the rift valley floor and an important mechanism in building the oceanic crust. This study quantitatively investigates the extent, nature and distribution of seamount volcanism at the ultraslow Gakkel Ridge, the manner in which it varies along the ridge axis and the relationship of the volcanoes to the larger scale rift morphology. A numerical algorithm is used to identify and characterize isolated volcanic edifices by searching gridded swath-bathymetry data for closed concentric contours protruding above the surrounding seafloor. A maximum likelihood model is used to estimate the total number of seamounts and the characteristic height within different seamount populations. Both the number and size of constructional volcanic features is greatly reduced at the Gakkel Ridge compared with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). The density of seamounts (number/area) on the rift valley floor of the Western Volcanic Zone (WVZ) is similar to 55% that of the MAR. The observed volcanoes are also much smaller, so, the amount of erupted material is greatly reduced compared with the MAR. However, the WVZ is still able to maintain a MAR-like morphology with axial volcanic ridges, volcanoes scattered on the valley floor and rift valley walls consisting of high-angle faults. Seamount density at the Eastern Volcanic Zone (EVZ) is similar to 45% that of the WVZ (similar to 25% that of the MAR). Seamounts are clustered at the widely spaced magmatic centres characteristic of the EVZ, although some seamounts are found between magmatic centres. These seamounts tend to be located at the edge of the rift valley or on the valley walls rather than on the valley floor. Seamounts in the Sparsely Magmatic Zone (SMZ) are located almost entirely at the 19 degrees E magmatic centre with none observed within a 185 km-long portion of the rift valley floor. The EVZ and SMZ appear to display a mode of crustal accretion, characterized by extreme focusing of melt to the magmatic centres. Magmas erupted between the magmatic centres appear to have ascended along faults. This is very different from what is observed at the WVZ (or the MAR), and there is a threshold transition between the two modes of crustal accretion. At the Gakkel Ridge, the location of the transition appears to be localized by a boundary in mantle composition.


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DOI 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2008.03860.x