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Keywords:

  • galapagos;
  • lava morphology;
  • magma supply;
  • volcanic eruptions;
  • mid-ocean ridges;
  • sonar

[1] Volcanic eruptions at mid-ocean ridges (MORs) control the permeability, internal structure, and architecture of oceanic crust, thus establishing the foundation for the evolution of the ocean basins. To better understand the emplacement of submarine lava flows at MORs, we have integrated submersible-based geologic mapping with remote sensing techniques to characterize the lava flow morphology within previously mapped lava flow fields produced during single eruptive episodes at the Galápagos Spreading Center (GSC). Detailed attributes describing the surface geometry and texture of the lava flows have been extracted from high-resolution sonar data and combined with georeferenced visual observations from submersible dives and camera tows; based on signatures contained in these data, a fuzzy logic-based classification algorithm categorized lava flow morphology as pillows, lobates, or sheets. The resulting digital thematic maps offer an unprecedented view of GSC lava morphology, collectively covering 77 km2 of ridge axis terrain at a resolution of 2 m × 2 m. Error assessments with independent visual reference data indicate approximately 90% agreement, comparable to subaerial classification studies. The digital lava morphology maps enable quantitative, spatially comprehensive measurements of the abundance and distribution of lava morphologies over large areas of seafloor and within individual eruptive units. A comparison of lava flow fields mapped at lower- and higher-magma-supply settings (95° and 92°W, respectively) indicates that effusion rates increase along with magma supply and independent of spreading rate at the GSC, although a complete range of eruptive behavior exists at each setting.