Seismological imaging of ridge–arc interaction beneath the Eastern Lau Spreading Center from OBS ambient noise tomography

Zha, Yang; Webb, Spahr C.; Wei, S. Shawn; Wiens, Douglas A.; Blackman, Donna K.; Menke, William H.; Dunn, Robert A.; Conder, James A.

The Lau Basin displays large along-strike variations in ridge characters with the changing proximity of the adjacent subduction zone. The mechanism governing these changes is not well understood but one hypotheses relates them to interaction between the arc and back-arc magmatic systems. We present a 3D seismic velocity model of the shallow mantle beneath the Eastern Lau back-arc Spreading Center (ELSC) and the adjacent Tofua volcanic arc obtained from ambient noise tomography of ocean bottom seismograph data. Our seismic images reveal an asymmetric upper mantle low velocity zone (LVZ) beneath the ELSC. Two major trends are present as the ridge-to-arc distance increases: (1) the LVZ becomes increasingly offset from the ridge to the north, where crust is thinner and the ridge less magmatically active; (2) the LVZ becomes increasingly connected to a sub-arc low velocity zone to the south. The separation of the ridge and arc low velocity zones is spatially coincident with the abrupt transition in crustal composition and ridge morphology. Our results present the first mantle imaging confirmation of a direct connection between crustal properties and uppermost mantle processes at ELSC, and support the prediction that as ELSC migrates away from the arc, a changing mantle wedge flow pattern leads to the separation of the arc and ridge melting regions. Slab-derived water is cutoff from the ridge, resulting in abrupt changes in crustal lava composition and crustal porosity. The larger offset between mantle melt supply and the ridge along the northern ELSC may reduce melt extraction efficiency along the ridge, further decreasing the melt budget and leading to the observed flat and faulted ridge morphology, thinner crust and the lack of an axial melt lens.


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Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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