Quantitative analysis of abyssal hills in the Atlantic Ocean: A correlation between inferred crustal thickness and extensional faulting Academic Article uri icon


  • A recent cruise to the Office of Naval Research Atlantic Natural Laboratory obtained ?100% Hydrosweep bathymetrie coverage, >200% Hawaii MRl (HMRl) side scan coverage, gravity and magnetics over an area spanning three ridge segments along axis (?25°25?N to ?27°10?N), and crustal ages from 0 to 26–30 Ma (?400 km) on the west flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This data set represents a first opportunity for an extensive regional analysis of abyssal hill morphology created at a slow spreading ridge. The primary purpose of this work is to investigate the relationship between abyssal hill morphology and the properties of the ridge crest at which they were formed. We apply the method of Goff and Jordan [1988] for the estimation of two-dimensional statistical properties of abyssal hill morphology from the gridded Hydrosweep bathymetry. Important abyssal hill parameters derived from this analysis include root-mean-square (rms) height, characteristic width, and plan view aspect ratio. The analysis is partitioned into two substudies: (1) analysis of near-axis (< 7 Ma) abyssal hills for each of the three segments and (2) analysis of temporal variations (?2–29 Ma) in abyssal hill morphology along the run of the south segment. The results of this analysis are compared and correlated with analysis of the gravity data and preliminary determination of faulting characteristics based on HMRl side scan data. Principal results of this study are: (1) Abyssal hill morphology within the study region is strongly influenced by the inside-outside corner geometry of the mid-ocean ridge segments; abyssal hills originating at inside corners have larger rms height and characteristic width and smaller plan view aspect ratio than those originating at outside corners. (2) The residual mantle Bouguer gravity anomaly is positively correlated with intersegment and along-flow-line variations in rms height and characteristic width, and it is negatively correlated with plan view aspect ratio. From this result, we infer that lower-relief, narrower, and more elongated abyssal hills are produced when the crust being generated is thicker. (3) Intersegment variations in near-axis rms height negatively correlate with average fault density as determined from analysis of HMRl side scan imagery.

publication date

  • November 10, 1995