Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Seismogenic structure and processes associated with magma inflation and hydrothermal circulation beneath the East Pacific Rise at 9°50′N

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Abstract

A dense ocean bottom seismometer array recorded more than 7,300 microearthquakes between October 2003 and April 2004 on the fast spreading East Pacific Rise at 9°50′ N. A previous initial analysis of these data revealed the general structure of an along-axis oriented hydrothermal circulation cell, with an inferred down-flow zone near a 4th-order axial discontinuity, a horizontal band of seismicity overlying the axial magma chamber (AMC), and an upflow zone that correlates with activity patterns of hydrothermal vents. Here we present cross-correlation-based double-difference hypocenter locations that reveal further insight into the detailed structure and kinematics that control seismic failure. We find that the majority of events within the inferred down flow pipe occur near the surface where the entrenched seawater presumably lowers the frictional strength of faults generated by local tectonic stresses. Beneath the eastern side of the ridge axis, just above the AMC at ∼1.4 km depth, we observe repeated shear failure along well defined steeply east dipping faults. Composite focal mechanisms indicate reverse motion, suggesting that slip on these faults is caused by AMC inflation and possibly injection of magma into a narrow sill. We resolve a small counterclockwise skew in the strike of the reverse faults relative to the direction of the ridge axis, consistent with Nuvel 1A spreading direction suggesting that the regional tectonic stress field may be controlling the seismogenic structures at depth. Earthquakes on the reverse faults occur preferentially during peak extensional tidal stresses, indicating that these faults are critically stressed.

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