Timing of volcanism along the northern East Pacific Rise based on paleointensity experiments on basaltic glasses

Carlut, Julie; Cormier, Marie-Helene; Kent, Dennis V.; Donnelly, Kathleen E.; Langmuir, Charles H.

Samples from two adjacent and contrasting ridge segments along the East Pacific Rise were measured for their magnetic paleointensity in order to further explore the possibilities of dating very young volcanic samples using secular variations in the Earth's magnetic field. The ridge segment north of the Orozco transform fault (15°22′-16°20′N) is the shallowest and broadest along more than 5000 km of the East Pacific Rise, whereas the adjacent segment to the north (16°16′-18°N) has a "typical" morphology for its intermediate spreading rate. Both ridge segments were densely sampled during the PANR01MV cruise and 36 samples of axial lava flows, consisting mainly of glasses from the rims of the flows and some fragments of lobate basalts, were selected from this collection for paleointensity experiments. The Coe version of the Thellier double-heating procedure (in air) was used. Twenty-seven units provide internally consistent paleointensity estimates leading to precise estimates of the paleofield, which range between 8 μT and 57 μT. Comparisons with reference paleointensity curves compiled from subaerial flows, archeomagnetic data and sedimentary records projected to the sampling site coordinates show that the measured values can be used to constrain the volcanic history of the ridge segments over the past few thousand years. A good agreement was found between apparent "freshness" of the glasses, the geochemistry of the lavas, and their magnetic paleointensity values. The inflated southern segment seems characterized by recent activities as indicated by numerous flows with paleointensities clustering around today's value (39 μT) or around the high values typical of 2000-3000 years ago (~55 μT). We interpret this distribution to indicate the flooding by effusive lava flows of the entire axial plateau some 2000-3000 years ago, followed by a volcanic phase producing smaller volume lava flows confined to the innermost 200 m of the ridge axis. The northern ridge segment is characterized by dispersed paleointensity values consistent with a series of small eruptions of diverse ages. Samples collected at the tips of both ridge segments across the 16°20′N axial discontinuity have the lowest paleointensities and are thus thought to be significantly older, consistent with models advocating reduced magmatism near ridge axis discontinuities. This study demonstrates the strong potential of paleointensity measurements as a tool to help constrain volcanic history at ridge axes.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research

More About This Work