Geoid height-age relation from SEASAT altimeter profiles across the Mendocino Fracture Zone


  • David T. Sandwell,

  • Gerald Schubert


Twenty-eight SEASAT altimeter profiles crossing the Mendocino Fracture Zone are used together with seafloor ages determined from magnetic lineations to estimate the change in oceanic geoid height with age, between ages of 15 and 135 m.y. An unbiased estimate of the overall geoid offset along each profile is determined from a least-squares fit of the along-track derivative of the geoid to the geoid slope predicted from a simple two-layer gravitational edge effect model. Uncertainties based upon the statistical properties of each profile are also determined. A geoid slope-age relation is constructed by normalizing the geoid offsets and uncertainties by the age offsets. The results are in agreement with geoid slope-age relations determined from symmetrically spreading ridges (Sandwell and Schubert, 1980). However, the fracture zone estimates have smaller uncertainties and show less scatter. A comparison of these results with the geoid slope-age prediction of the boundary layer cooling model shows that the thermal structure begins to deviate from this model at an early age (20–40 m.y.). A plate cooling model with a thickness of 125 km is most compatible with the geoid slope-age estimates, although significant deviations occur; these may indicate that the lithospheric thermal structure is not entirely age dependent.