Abstract

Seismic reflection data from the East Pacific Rise at lat 16°N, which is spreading at the high end of intermediate rates, suggest that the depths at which axial magma chambers reside do not vary smoothly as a function of spreading rate. Rather, magma-chamber depths form two distinct populations, each associated with a distinct axial morphology and with an abrupt transition occurring within the intermediate-spreading-rate range. Our data (1) show that the melt lens at high-intermediate-spreading ridges lies at a shallow level similar to lens depths at faster-spreading ridges, and (2) provide further support for the spreading-rate invariance of ridges with axial highs noted in other ridge properties. The axial morphology of the two ridge segments within the study area differs markedly, and a large contrast in magma supply is inferred. The ridge segment with greater magma supply is associated with a broader and more continuous melt lens, a wider region over which the extrusive crust accumulates, and a thicker extrusive layer off-axis where supply to the ridge segment appears to be centered. However, on-axis, the extrusive layer is thinnest where magma supply is robust and a shallower melt lens is observed, consistent with a model in which magma pressure controls the thickness of the extrusive layer accumulated above the magma lens.

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