The segmentation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between 29°N and 31°30′ N during the last 10 Ma was studied. Within our survey area the spreading center is segmented at a scale of 25-100 km by non-transform discontinuities and by the 70 km offset Atlantis Transform. The morphology of the spreading center differs north and south of the Atlantis Transform. The spreading axis between 30°30′N and 31°30′N consists of enéchelon volcanic ridges, located within a rift valley with a regional trend of ∼ 040°. South of the transform, the spreading center is associated with a well-defined rift valley trending ∼ 015°. Magnetic anomalies and the bathymetric traces left by non-transform discontinuities on the flanks of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge provide a record of the evolution of this slow-spreading center over the last 10 Ma. Migration of non-transform offsets was predominantly to the south, except perhaps in the last 2 Ma. The discontinuity traces and the pattern of crustal thickness variations calculated from gravity data suggest that focused mantle upwelling has been maintained for at least 10 Ma south of 30°30′ N. In contrast, north of 30°30′N, the present segmentation configuration and the mantle upwelling centers inferred from gravity data appear to have been established more recently. The orientation of the bathymetric traces suggests that the migration of non-transform offsets is not controlled by the motion of the ridge axis with respect to the mantle. The evolution of the spreading center and the pattern of segmentation is influenced by relative plate motion changes, and by local processes, perhaps related to the amount of melt delivered to spreading segments. Relative plate motion changes over the last 10 Ma in our survey area have included a decrease in spreading rate from ∼ 32 mm a-1 to ∼ 24 mm a-1, as well as a clockwise change in spreading direction of 13° between anomalies 5 and 4, followed by a counterclockwise change of 4° between anomaly 4 and the present. Interpretation of magnetic anomalies indicates that there are significant variations in spreading asymmetry and rate within and between segments for a given anomaly time. These differences, as well as variations in crustal thickness inferred from gravity data on the flanks of spreading segments, indicate that magmatic and tectonic activity are, in general, not coordinated between adjacent spreading segments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science