Re-evaluating across-axis geochemical variations at the East Pacific Rise and Juan de Fuca Ridge: on- and off-axis melt delivery

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Rachel L Walters and Michael R Perfit, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States
High spatial density geochemical data sets from the N-EPR and S-JdFR are used to re-evaluate the across-axis geochemical variations in major and trace elements at mid-ocean ridges (MORs). At two axial melt lens (AML) segments, north and south, at the 9-10°N EPR, N-MORB MgO varies across-axis from the most primitive above the AML to more evolved away from the axis. This trend is distinct at the northern (magmatically more robust) segment with an axial MgO range of 8-9 wt% and off-axis (>2km) range of 6.5-8 wt%. This decrease is also reflected in E-MORB MgO variation. There is more variability at the southern segment but, off-axis progression to more evolved MgO is still evident. Interestingly, the Cleft segment, JdFR, displays similar geochemical behavior to the EPR with an axial MgO range of 7-8.5 wt% and off-axis (>2km) range of 6-7.5 wt%.

EPR geochemical studies over the past 30 years have described models of upper crustal accumulation ranging from eruptions limited to the axis, to temporal variation in the composition of magma in the AML, to multiple eruption sites across the ridge crest and flanks (<5km). Eruptions limited to the axis, with topographically controlled flow off-axis, cannot reproduce the observed off-axis change to more evolved N-MORB. Time-dependence could explain one instance of evolved lavas off-axis but, similar geochemical behavior is observed at two separate AML segments. Multiple instances of consistent compositional variability at multiple AML segments, and at different ridges, point to a common process of crustal accretion at MORs.

In light of recent geophysical discoveries of Off-axis AMLs (OAMLs) at the EPR and JdFR, we propose that the trend of more evolved lavas for the majority of N-MORB lavas with distance from the axis is controlled by thermal distribution in the underlying crystal mush zone (CMZ). Higher magma flux beneath the axis facilitates higher temperatures and high porosity melt pathways, reducing crustal residence times, and erupting more primitive lava compositions. OAMLs at the edges of the CMZ, where it is cooler, feed more evolved off-axis eruptions. Lower magma flux at the edges increases crustal residence time and the extent to which magmas crystallize. OAMLs outside of the CMZ host magmas that may escaped any central mixing and erupt a greater range of compositions.