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Keywords:

  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge;
  • oceanic detachment fault;
  • oceanic core complex;
  • thermochronometry;
  • zircon;
  • Ocean Drilling Program

Oceanic detachment faulting represents a distinct mode of seafloor spreading at slow spreading mid-ocean ridges, but many questions persist about the thermal evolution and depth of faulting. We present new Pb/U and (U-Th)/He zircon ages and combine them with magnetic anomaly ages to define the cooling histories of gabbroic crust exposed by oceanic detachment faults at three sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) holes 1270D and 1275D near the 15°20′N Transform, and Atlantis Massif at 30°N). Closure temperatures for the Pb/U (∼800°C–850°C) and (U-Th)/He (∼210°C) isotopic systems in zircon bracket acquisition of magnetic remanence, collectively providing a temperature-time history during faulting. Results indicate cooling to ∼200°C in 0.3–0.5 Myr after zircon crystallization, recording time-averaged cooling rates of ∼1000°C–2000°C/Myr. Assuming the footwalls were denuded along single continuous faults, differences in Pb/U and (U-Th)/He zircon ages together with independently determined slip rates allow the distance between the ∼850°C and ∼200°C isotherms along the fault plane to be estimated. Calculated distances are 8.4 ± 4.2 km and 5.0 ± 2.1 km from holes 1275D and 1270D and 8.4 ± 1.4 km at Atlantis Massif. Estimating an initial subsurface fault dip of 50° and a depth of 1.5 km to the 200°C isotherm leads to the prediction that the ∼850°C isotherm lies ∼5–7 km below seafloor at the time of faulting. These depth estimates for active fault systems are consistent with depths of microseismicity observed beneath the hypothesized detachment fault at the TAG hydrothermal field and high-temperature fault rocks recovered from many oceanic detachment faults.