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Control on seafloor spreading geometries by stress- and strain-induced lithospheric weakening
Danish Lithosphere Centre, Ostervoldgade 10, L, Copenhagen K, 1350, Denmark.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4005-9990
2004 (English)In: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, ISSN 0012-821X, E-ISSN 1385-013X, Vol. 222, no 1, 177-189 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Seafloor spreading typically occurs along ridge segments oriented at right angles to plate motion and offset by orthogonal transform faults. Few regions exhibit different patterns, such as the East Pacific Rise (EPR), which additionally displays overlapping spreading centres (OSCs) and microplates. We introduce a dynamical model using two independent, scalar types of damage in an elastic plate that generates most observed spreading geometries as natural failure modes, suggesting that the dynamics of the underlying mantle have only a minor influence on accretionary plate margins. The elastic modulus that is affected by the damage determines the type of localized deformation. Damage reducing the bulk modulus tends to result in tensile fractures, while a reduction in shear modulus leads to shear fractures. The damage source determines the fracture orientation. Material weakening in tension results in fractures perpendicular to the most tensile principal stress, while shear weakening results in two conjugate fractures at 45degrees relative to the applied stress. Strain or energy-dependent damage results in propagating, localized fractures. Stress-dependent damage tends to evolve into diffuse regions that may eventually focus into narrow zones. Starting from small perturbations with reduced elastic moduli as nucleation points, all ridge geometries start with ridge propagation caused by tensile energy reducing both elastic moduli by a model of damage caused by tensile energy reducing both moduli. Orthogonal transform faults develop in regions between offset segments if there is an additional reduction in shear modulus due to shear stress. The orthogonality of the transform faults does not derive from the local stress orientation but from the dynamics of damage focusing which causes the fault to converge towards an optimal geometry that concentrates nearly all deformation into damaged zones. OSCs form when the shear damage leading to transform faults is suppressed, while microplate formation requires additional reduction of the shear modulus by tensile energy. Oblique spreading at 45degrees. recently discovered along ultraslow spreading ridges, occurs when both moduli are weakened by shear energy. A parameter regime exists in which ridge-transform patterns develop at low applied tension, while microplates form at higher stresses. These results indicate that at least three different micromechanical processes operate with different evolution rates. OSCs and oblique spreading require different material properties.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2004. Vol. 222, no 1, 177-189 p.
Keyword [en]
mid-ocean ridges, dynamics, segmentation, transform faults, damage rheology
National Category
Research subject
Geophysics with specialization in Solid Earth Physics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-224951DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2004.02.022OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-224951DiVA: diva2:719389
Available from: 2014-05-23 Created: 2014-05-23 Last updated: 2014-05-26Bibliographically approved

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Hieronymus, Christoph
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