The East Pacific Rise and Its Flanks 8-18-Degrees N - History of Segmentation, Propagation and Spreading Direction Based on Seamarc-Ii and Sea Beam Studies

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Marine Geophysical Researches
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SeaMARC II and Sea Beam bathymetric data are combined to create a chart of the East Pacific Rise (EPR) from 8-degrees-N to 18-degrees-N reaching at least 1 Ma onto the rise flanks in most places. Based on these data as well as SeaMARC II side scan sonar mosaics we offer the following observations and conclusions. The EPR is segmented by ridge axis discontinuities such that the average segment lengths in the area are 360 km for first-order segments, 140 km for second-order segments, 52 km for third-order segments, and 13 km for fourth-order segments. All three first-order discontinuities are transform faults. Where the rise axis is a bathymetric high, second-order discontinuities are overlapping spreading centers (OSCs), usually with a distinctive 3:1 overlap to offset ratio. The off-axis discordant zones created by the OSCs are V-shaped in plan view indicating along axis migration at rates of 40-100 mm yr-1. The discordant zones consist of discrete abandoned ridge tips and overlap basins within a broad wake of anomalously deep bathymetry and high crustal magnetization. The discordant zones indicate that OSCs have commenced at different times and have migrated in different directions. This rules out any linkage between OSCs and a hot spot reference frame. The spacing of abandoned ridges indicates a recurrence interval for ridge abandonment of 20,000-200,000 yrs for OSCs with an average interval of approximately 100,000 yrs. Where the rise axis is a bathymetric low, the only second-order discontinuity mapped is a right-stepping jog in the axial rift valley. The discordant zone consists of a V-shaped wake of elongated deeps and interlocking ridges, similar to the wakes of second-order discontinuities on slow-spreading ridges. At the second-order segment level, long segments tend to lengthen at the expense of neighboring shorter segments. This can be understood if segments can be approximated by cracks, because the propagation force at a crack tip is directly proportional to crack length.There has been a counter-clockwise change in the direction of spreading on the EPR between 8 and 18-degrees-N during the last 1 Ma. The cumulative change has been 3-degrees-6-degrees, producing opening across the Orozco and Siqueiros transform faults and closing across the Clipperton transform. The instantaneous present-day Cocos-Pacific pole is located at approximately 38.4-degrees-N, 109.5-degrees-W with an angular rotation rate of 2.10-degrees m.y.-1 This change in spreading direction explains the predominance of right-stepping discontinuities of orders 2-4 along the Siqueiros-Clipperton and Orozco-Rivera segments, but does not explain other aspects of segmentation which are thought to be linked to patterns of melt supply to the ridge axis.There are 23 significant seamount chains in the mapped area and most are created very near the spreading axis. Nearly all of the seamount chains have trends which fall between the absolute and relative plate motion vectors.


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