Theses Doctoral

Imaging the seismic structure beneath oceanic spreading centers using ocean bottom geophysical techniques

Zha, Yang

This dissertation focuses on imaging the crustal and upper mantle seismic velocity structure beneath oceanic spreading centers. The goals are to provide a better understanding of the crustal magmatic system and the relationship between mantle melting processes, crustal architecture and ridge characteristics. To address these questions I have analyzed ocean bottom geophysical data collected from the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise and the back-arc Eastern Lau Spreading Center using a combination of ambient noise tomography and seafloor compliance analysis.
To characterize the crustal melt distribution at fast spreading ridges, I analyze seafloor compliance - the deformation under long period ocean wave forcing - measured during multiple expeditions between 1994 and 2007 at the East Pacific Rise 9º - 10ºN segment. A 3D numerical modeling technique is developed and used to estimate the effects of low shear velocity zones on compliance measurements. The forward modeling suggests strong variations of lower crustal shear velocity along the ridge axis, with zones of possible high melt fractions beneath certain segments. Analysis of repeated compliance measurements at 9º48'N indicates a decrease of crustal melt fraction following the 2005 - 2006 eruption. This temporal variability provides direct evidence for short-term variations of the magmatic system at a fast spreading ridge.
To understand the relationship between mantle melting processes and crustal properties, I apply ambient noise tomography of ocean bottom seismograph (OBS) data to image the upper mantle seismic structure beneath the Eastern Lau Spreading Center (ELSC). The seismic images reveal an asymmetric upper mantle low velocity zone (LVZ) beneath the ELSC, representing a zone of partial melt. As the ridge migrates away from the volcanic arc, the LVZ becomes increasingly offset and separated from the sub-arc low velocity zone. The separation of the ridge and arc low velocity zones is spatially coincident with the abrupt transition in crustal composition and ridge
morphology. Therefore these results confirm a previous prediction that the changing interaction between the arc and back-arc magmatic systems is responsible for the abrupt change in crustal properties along the ELSC.
I further investigate the crustal structure along and across the ELSC using seafloor compliance. Compliance measurements are inverted for local crustal shear velocity structure as well as sediment thickness at 30 OBS locations using a Monte Carlo method. Sediment increases asymmetrically with seafloor age, with much a higher rate to the east of the ridge. Along the ELSC, upper crustal velocities increase from south to north as the ridge migrates away from the volcanic arc front, consistent with a less porous upper crust with possibly less subduction input. Furthermore, average upper crust shear velocities for crust produced at past ELSC when it was near the volcanic arc are considerably slower than crust produced at present day northern ELSC. I show that the implications of previous active seismic studies in the axial ELSC can be extended much farther off-axis and back in time.
I also address a challenge of ocean bottom seismology and develop a new method for determining OBS horizontal orientations using multi-component ambient noise correlation. I demonstrate that the OBS orientations can be robustly estimated through maximizing the correlation between the diagonal and cross terms of the noise correlation function. This method is applied to the ELSC OBS experiment dataset and the obtained orientations are consisent with results from a conventional teleseismic method. The new method is promising for a wide range of applications.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Webb, Spahr C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 20, 2015