Reconciling geochemical and geophysical observations of magma supply and melt distribution at the 9N overlapping spreading center, East Pacific Rise

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Early studies of mid-ocean ridge discontinuities, such as transform faults and overlapping spreading centers, suggested a lower magma supply compared to ridge segment centers. This is reflected in bathymetrically deeper ridge axes, decreased hydrothermal activity, and the eruption of more evolved lava compositions. While many signatures of lower magma supply are observed at the 9N overlapping spreading center on the East Pacific Rise, geophysical studies indicate extensive sub-surface melt in the region, suggesting that the present magmatic system is not diminished. Here major and trace element concentrations of erupted lavas are used to better understand magma supply at a large second-order ridge discontinuity. We show that the wide range of lava compositions erupted at the 9N overlapping spreading center is generally consistent with early petrologic models of ridge propagation and require variable degrees of fractional crystallization, extensive magma mixing, and in some instances crustal assimilation. Moderately evolved ferrobasalts and FeTi basalts erupted at the OSC indicate that crustal residence times are long enough for significant crystallization of all magmas within the region, but the presence of dacitic lavas reflects periods of even lower magma supply, where melt replenishment is subordinate to cooling and crystallization. The geophysical observations of extensive melt within the shallow crust are reconciled with the geochemistry of the lavas, if melts are supplied intermittently to the propagating ridge over relatively short timescales. © 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.






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Wanless, VD, MR Perfit, EM Klein, S White and WI Ridley (2012). Reconciling geochemical and geophysical observations of magma supply and melt distribution at the 9N overlapping spreading center, East Pacific Rise. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 13(11). 10.1029/2012GC004168 Retrieved from

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Emily M. Klein

University Distinguished Service Professor

Dr. Klein's research focuses on the geochemistry of oceanic basalts, using diverse tools of major, trace and isotopic analyses. Her research involves sea-going expeditions to sample and map the ocean floor.

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