Controls on melt migration and extraction at the ultraslow Southwest Indian Ridge 10°–16°E Academic Article uri icon


  • Crustal thickness variations at the ultraslow spreading 10–16°E region of the Southwest Indian Ridge are used to constrain melt migration processes. In the study area, ridge morphology correlates with the obliquity of the ridge axis with respect to the spreading direction. A long oblique “supersegment”, nearly devoid of magmatism, is flanked at either end by robust magmatic centers (Joseph Mayes Seamount and Narrowgate segment) of much lesser obliquity. Plate-driven mantle flow and temperature structure are calculated in 3-D based on the observed ridge segmentation. Melt extraction is assumed to occur in three steps: (1) vertical migration out of the melting region, (2) focusing along an inclined permeability barrier, and (3) extraction when the melt enters a region shallower than ?35 km within 5 km of the ridge axis. No crust is predicted in our model along the oblique supersegment. The formation of Joseph Mayes Seamount is consistent with an on-axis melt anomaly induced by the local orthogonal spreading. The crustal thickness anomaly at Narrowgate results from melt extracted at a tectonic damage zone as it travels along the axis toward regions of lesser obliquity. Orthogonal spreading enhances the Narrowgate crustal thickness anomaly but is not necessary for it. The lack of a residual mantle Bouguer gravity high along the oblique supersegment can be explained by deep serpentization of the upper mantle permissible by the thermal structure of this ridge segment. Buoyancy-driven upwelling and/or mantle heterogeneities are not required to explain the extreme focusing of melt in the study area.

publication date

  • October 4, 2011