Crustal structure of the ultra-slow spreading Knipovich Ridge, North Atlantic, along a presumed amagmatic portion of oceanic crustal formation

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The ultra-slow, asymmetrically-spreading Knipovich Ridge is the northernmost part of the Mid Atlantic ridge system. In the autumn of 2002 a combined ocean-bottom seismometer multichannel seismic (OBS/MCS) and gravity survey along the spreading direction of the Knipovich Ridge was carried out. The main objective of the study was to gain an insight into the crustal structure and composition of what is assumed to be an amagmatic segment of oceanic crust. P-wave velocity and Vp/Vs models were built and complemented by a gravity model. The 190 km long transect reveals a much more complex crustal structure than anticipated. The magmatic crust is thinner than the global average of 7.1 ± 1.0 km. The young fractured portion of Oceanic Layer 2 has low seismic velocities while the older part has normal seismic velocities and is broken into several rotated fault blocks seen as thickness variations of Layer 2. The youngest part of Oceanic Layer 3 is also dominated by low velocities, indicative of fracturing, seawater circulation and thermal expansion. The remaining portion of Layer 3 exhibits inverse variations in thickness and seismic velocity. This is explained by a sequence of periods of faster spreading (estimated to be up to 8 mm/year from interpretation of magnetic anomalies) when more normal gabbroic crust was being generated and periods of slower spreading (5.5 mm/year) when amagmatic stretching and serpentinization of the upper mantle occurred, and crust composed of mixed gabbro and serpentinized mantle was generated. The volumetric changes and upward fluid migration, associated with the process of serpentinization in this part of the crust, caused disruption to the overlying sedimentary layers.

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