Increased metamorphic conditions in the lower crust during oceanic transform fault evolution

Haas, Peter; Thomas, Myron F. H.; Heine, Christian; Ebbing, Jörg; Seregin, Andrey; van Itterbeeck, Jimmy

Oceanic transform faults connect the segments of active spreading ridges that slide past each other. In a classical view, transform faults are considered as conservative, where no material is added or destroyed. Recent studies, however, suggest that the crust in the transform fault region is deformed during different episodes. We combine high resolution 3D broadband seismic data with shipborne potential field data to study ancient fault zones in Albian-Aptian aged oceanic crust in the eastern Gulf of Guinea offshore S ão Tomé and Príncipe. The crust in this region is characterized by a thin, high-reflective upper crust, which is underlain by a thick, almost seismically transparent unit that comprises localized dipping reflectors, previously interpreted as extrusive lava flows. This layer defines the target area for inversion and forward modelling of the potential field data. The picked seismic horizons are used as geometrical boundaries of the crustal model. First, we perform a lateral parameter inversion for the lower crust, which provides vertical columns of density and magnetic susceptibility. Second, we sort the estimated values using a clustering approach and identify five groups with common parameter relationships. Third, we use the clustered lower crustal domains to define a consistent 3D model of the study area that aligns with the seismic structure and geological concepts, preferred to the simple inversion of the first step. The final model shows anomalous low susceptibility and medium to high density close to the buried fracture zones, which reflects increasing pressure and temperature conditions accompanied by a change of metamorphic facies. Our model indicates enhanced tectonic activity with an extensional component during the formation of oceanic crust that culminates in the transform region. These results are in line with recent studies and strengthen the impressions of a non-conservative character of ridge-transform intersections.



Haas, Peter / Thomas, Myron F. H. / Heine, Christian / et al: Increased metamorphic conditions in the lower crust during oceanic transform fault evolution. 2024. Copernicus Publications.


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