Sea Beam, SeaMARC II and Alvin-based studies of faulting on the East Pacific Rise 9 degrees 20' N-9 degrees 50' N

TitleSea Beam, SeaMARC II and Alvin-based studies of faulting on the East Pacific Rise 9 degrees 20' N-9 degrees 50' N
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsAlexander, RT, Macdonald, KC
JournalMarine Geophysical Researches
KeywordsHOV Alvin (Human Occupied Vehicle)

A study of Sea Beam bathymetry and SeaMARC II side-scan sonar allows us to make quantitative measures of the contribution of faulting to the creation of abyssal hill topography on the East Pacific Rise (EPR) 9°15′ N–9°50′ N. We conclude that fault locations and throws can be confidently determined with just Sea Beam and SeaMARC II based on a number of in situ observations made from the ALVIN submersible. A compilation of 1026 fault scarp locations and scarp height measurements shows systematic variations both parallel and perpendicular to the ridge axis. Outward-facing fault scarps (facing away from the ridge axis), begin to develop within ∼2 km of the ridge and reach their final average height of ∼60 m at 5–7 km. Beyond these distances, outward-dipping faults appear to be locked, although there is some indication of continued lengthening of outward-facing fault scarps out to the edge of the survey area. Inward-facing fault scarps (facing toward the ridge axis), initiate ∼2 km off axis and increase in height and length out to the edge of our data at 30 km, where the average height of inward fault scarps is 60–70 m and the length is ∼30 km. Continued slip on inward faults at a greater distance off axis is probable, but based on fault lengths, ∼80{%} of the lengthening of inward fault scarps occurs within 30 km of the axis ({\textgreater}95{%} for outward faults). Along-strike propagation and linkage of these faults are common. Outward-dipping faults accommodate more apparent horizontal strain than inward ones within 10 km of the ridge. The net horizontal extension due to faulting at greater distances is estimated as 4.2–4.3{%}, and inward and outward faults contribute comparably. Both inward- and outward-facing fault scarps increase in height from north to south in our study area in the direction of decreasing inferred magma supply. Average fault spacing is ∼2 km for both inward-dipping and outward-dipping faults. The azimuths of fault scarps document the direction of ridge spreading, but they are sensitive to local changes in least compressive stress direction near discontinuities. Both the ridge trend and fault scarp azimuths show a clockwise change in trend of ∼3–5° from 9°50′ N to 9°15′ N approaching the 9° N overlapping spreading center.