Architecture of on- and off-axis magma bodies at EPR 9°37–40′N and implications for oceanic crustal accretion
Crustal accretion at fast-spreading mid-ocean ridges is believed to be concentrated in a narrow zone up to a few kilometers wide centered beneath the ridge axis. However, there is increasing evidence for off-axis magmatism occurring beyond this narrow zone. Here, we present 3D multichannel seismic (MCS) images from the East Pacific Rise 9°37–40′N extending to 11 km on the ridge flanks. In the axial region, two offset axial magma bodies underlie a small ridge-axis discontinuity at ∼9°37′N, displaying an overlapping geometry similar to that of the seafloor structures above. On the ridge flanks, a series of off-axis magma lenses (OAML) are imaged: they are located 2–10 km from the ridge axis, at 700 to 1520 ms two-way travel time below seafloor (bsf) (∼1.6 to 4.5 km bsf), with variable areas ranging from 0.5 km2 to 5.2 km2. The largest body is centered 4 km east of the ridge axis and is composed of a large, continuous, flat-topped lens and a series of small, discontinuous, westward-dipping bodies along its western edge. The flat crest of the OAML lies at approximately the same depth beneath layer 2A as the axial magma lens and we infer that this OAML has formed by aggregation of ascending melts that accumulate at the base of the sheeted dike section. A cluster of reflections underlying the OAML at 1260–1510 ms bsf are observed that may be deeper lenses feeding melts to the upper lens. This largest OAML is associated with Moho travel time anomalies of 120–260 ms within a zone that extends up to 2 km from the edge of the OAML, suggesting a lower crust that is partially molten with lower crustal velocities reduced by 8–18% and/or thicker than normal by up to 1 km. Local volcanic edifices are found above two of the three OAMLs imaged in our study area and are inferred to be the eruptive products of the OAMLs. From the volume of these edifices and the Moho travel time anomalies we estimate the potential contribution of off-axis magmatism to the total volume of the crust to be ∼0.01–3%. The OAMLs imaged in our study area are present over roughly the same distance range as the zone of formation of near-axis seamounts. We speculate that OAMLs and the volcanic edifices found above them are small-scale manifestations of the off-axis magmatism that gives rise to near-axis seamounts.
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Also Published In
- Earth and Planetary Science Letters