Seismic investigation of crustal accretion at the slow spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge : the Reykjanes Ridge at 57° 45'N
Studies of mid-ocean ridges have provided evidence of magma chambers beneath both fast and intermediate spreading ridges. However no such features have been observed to date beneath slow spreading ridges. These contradictory observations are in direct conflict with seismic studies which reveal that the resulting crustal structures are similar and hence crustal structure is independent of the spreading rate. These latter observations in turn lead to the implication that the accretionary processes operating at all ridge types must also be similar. The aim of this study is to attempt to resolve between this discrepancy in geophysical observations of magma chambers at fast, intermediate and slow spreading ridges and investigate the nature of accretionary processes operating such that the same crustal structure is achieved. Therefore an apparently currently magmatically active section of the slow spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 57 45'N on the Reykjanes Ridge, was selected as the target of a multidisciplinary geophysical experiment to be conducted aboard the RRS Charles Darwin in 1993. Wide-angle seismic data recorded using 10 digital ocean bottom seismometers were used to generate models of the crustal structure along and across-axis. These models were confirmed and further constrained by modelling of normal incidence seismic and gravity data and by comparison with the results of modelling controlled source electromagnetic data. The resultant models indicate that a magma chamber exists beneath the axial volcanic ridge studied, providing the first geophysical observation of such a feature at any slow spreading ridge. This magma chamber is similar in dimensions to those observed beneath fast and intermediate spreading ridges and consists of a thin, narrow sill-like body which appears to be continuous along-axis, and which is underlain by a region of partial melt extending almost to the Moho. This latter feature also appears to be both longer-lived and more extensive than the magma chamber. The 2.5 km depth to the top of the magma chamber is only slightly greater than that observed at fast spreading ridges, which indicates that magma chamber depth does not vary significantly with spreading rate. However, there ore insufficient data available to fully constrain and develop this relationship to its fullest. Therefore the results of this study indicate that the processes of crustal accretion occurring at all spreading ridges are similar, with the lack of observations of magma chambers being due to the fact that the periods of magmatic activity at slow spreading ridges are considerably more widely separated in both space and time than for fast and intermediate spreading ridges. The main difference however, appears to occur in the process of emplacement of layer 2A, which is observed to thicken off-axis at fast spreading ridges due to the less viscous lavas produced at these ridges being able to flow further off-axis. The results of this study, and of two other studies at slow spreading ridges, show that layer 2A is completely formed on-axis and thins off-axis due to extensional faulting. The remainder of the crust is completely emplaced, and the Moho formed, on-axis at all spreading rates.