Detailed volcanostratigraphy of an accreted seamount: Implications for intraplate seamount formation



[1] Seamounts are a ubiquitous feature of the seafloor but relatively little is known about their internal structure. A seamount preserved in the Franciscan mélange of California suggests a sequence of formation common to all seamounts. Field mapping, geophysical measurements, and geochemical analyses are combined to interpret three stages of seamount growth consistent with the formation of other intraplate seamounts such as the Hawaiian volcanoes and the island of La Palma. A seamount begins to form as a pile of closely packed pillows with a high density and low porosity. Small pillow mound volcanoes common at mid-ocean ridges are seamounts that do not grow beyond this initial stage of formation. The second stage of seamount formation is marked by the first occurrence of breccia. As the seamount grows and becomes topographically more complex, slope varies and fractured material may begin to accumulate. Magma supply may also become spatially diffuse as the seamount grows and new supply pathways develop through the edifice. The second stage thus exhibits variability in both flow morphologies and geophysical properties. The final cap stage is composed of thin flows of various morphologies. These sequences reflect the shoaling of the seamount and a greater variability in extrusion rate resulting from waning magma supply and increased mass wasting. Understanding the growth and structure of seamounts has important implications for intraplate volcanism and for models of hydrothermal circulation in the oceanic crust.