Evidence of recent volcanic activity on the ultraslow-spreading Gakkel ridge
Seafloor spreading is accommodated by volcanic and tectonic processes along the global mid-ocean ridge system. As spreading rate decreases, the influence of volcanism also decreases, and it is unknown whether significant volcanism occurs at all at ultraslow spreading rates (<1.5 cm yr -1). Here we present three-dimensional sonar maps of the Gakkel ridge, Earth's slowest spreading mid-ocean ridge, located in the Arctic basin under the Arctic Ocean ice canopy. We acquired this data using hull-mounted sonars attached to a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Hawkbill. Sidescan data for the ultraslow-spreading (~1.0 cm yr- 1) eastern Gakkel ridge depict two young volcanoes covering approximately 720 km2 of an otherwise heavily sedimented axial valley. The western volcano coincides with the average location of epicentres for more than 250 teleseismic events detected in 1999, suggesting that an axial eruption was imaged shortly after its occurrence. These findings demonstrate that eruptions along the ultraslow-spreading Gakkel ridge are focused at discrete locations and appear to be more voluminous and occur more frequently than was previously thought.
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