Marine Science Faculty Publications

Three-dimensional SeaMARC II, Gravity, and Magnetics Study of Large-offset Rift Propagation at the Pito Rift, Easter Microplate

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Magnetic inversion, Bouguer anomalies, block faulting, modelling, microplate, rift propagation

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We present results from a SeaMARC II bathymetry, gravity, and magnetics survey of the northern end of the large-offset propagating East Rift of the Easter microplate. The East Rift is offset by more than 300 km from the East Pacific Rise and its northern end has rifted into approximately 3 Ma lithosphere of the Nazca Plate forming a broad (70–100 km) zone of high (up to 4 km) relief referred to as the Pito Rift. This region appears to have undergone distributed and asymmetric extension that has been primarily accommodated tectonically, by block faulting and tilting, and to a lesser degree by seafloor spreading on a more recently developed magmatic accretionary axis. The larger fault blocks have dimensions of 10–15 km and have up to several km of throw between adjacent blocks suggesting that isostatic adjustments occur on the scale of the individual blocks. Three-dimensional terrain corrected Bouguer anomalies, a three-dimensional magnetic inversion, and SeaMARC II backscatter data locate the recently developed magmatic axis in an asymmetric position in the western part of the rift. The zone of magmatic accretion is characterized by an axis of negative Bouguer gravity anomalies, a band of positive magnetizations, and a high amplitude magnetization zone locating its tip approximately 10 km south of the Pito Deep, the deepest point in the rift area. Positive Bouguer gravity anomalies and negative magnetizations characterize the faulted area to the east of the spreading axis supporting the interpretation that this area consists primarily of pre-existing Nazca plate that has been block faulted and stretched, and that no substantial new accretion has occurred there. The wide zone of deformation in the Pito Rift area and the changing trend of the fault blocks from nearly N-S in the east to NW-SE in the west may be a result of the rapidly changing kinematics of the Easter microplate and/or may result from ridge-transform like shear stresses developed at the termination of the East Rift against the Nazca plate. The broad zone of deformation developed at the Pito Rift and its apparent continuation some distance south along the East Rift has important implications for microplate mechanics and kinematic reconstructions since it suggests that initial microplate boundaries may consist in part of broad zones of deformation characterized by the formation of lithospheric scale fault blocks, and that what appear to be pseudofaults may actually be the outer boundaries of tectonized zones enclosing significant amounts of stretched pre-existing lithosphere.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Geophysical Researches, v. 13, p. 255-285