Flexural uplift of a lithospheric slab near the Vema transform (Central Atlantic): Timing and mechanisms

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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Dec 15
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The Vema Transverse Ridge (VTR) is a prominent, long and narrow topographic anomaly that runs for over 300 km along a sea floor spreading flow line south of the Vema transform at 11 N in the Atlantic. It rises abruptly about 140 km from the axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) in similar to 10 Myr old crust and runs continuously up to similar to 25 Myr old crust. It reaches over 3 km above the predicted lithospheric thermal contraction level. It is absent in crust younger than 10 Myr; thus, the uplift or the VTR must have ended roughly 10 Ma. The VTR is interpreted as the exposed edge of a flexured and uplifted slab of oceanic lithosphere that was generated at an 80 km long MAR segment. Based on satellite gravimetry imagery this MAR segment was born roughly 50 Ma and increased its length at an average rate of 1.6 mm/yr. Multibeam data show that the MAR-parallel sea floor fabric south of the VTR shifts its orientation by 5 degrees to 10 degrees clockwise in similar to 11-12 Myr old crust, indicating a change at that time of the orientation of the MAR axis and of the position of the Euler rotation pole. This change caused extension normal to the transform, followed between 12 and 10 Ma by flexure of the edge of the lithospheric slab, uplift of the VTR at a rate of 2 to 4 mm/yr, and exposure of a lithospheric section (Vema Lithospheric Section or VLS) at the northern edge of the slab, parallel to the Verna transform. Ages of pelagic carbonates encrusting ultramafic rocks sampled at the base of the VLS at different distances from the MAR axis suggest that the entire VTR rose vertically as a single block within the active transforrn offset, A 50 km long portion of the crest of the VTR rose above sea level, subsided, was truncated at sea level and covered by a carbonate platform. Subaerial and submarine erosion has gradually removed material from the top of the VTR and has modified its slopes, Spreading half rate of the crust south of the transform decreased from 17.2 mm/yr between 26 and 19 Ma to similar to 16.9 mm/yr between 19 and similar to 10 Ma, to similar to 13.6 mm/yr from 10 Ma to present. The slowing down of spreading occurred close in time to the change in ridge/transform geometry, suggesting that the two events are related. A numerical model relates lithospheric flexure to extension normal to the transform, suggesting that the extent of the uplift depends on the thickness of the brittle layer. consistent with the observed greater uplift of the older lithosphere along the VTR. (C) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2005.10.010