Advertisement

Abyssal Hills and Abyssal Plains

  • Marie-Helene Cormier
  • Heather Sloan
Chapter
Part of the Springer Geology book series (SPRINGERGEOL)

Abstract

Abyssal hills and abyssal plains makeup the majority of the seafloor, and thus cover vast amount of the Earth’s surface. Abyssal hills form in the young oceanic lithosphere near mid-ocean ridges. These elongate, ridge-parallel hills and intervening valleys provide the characteristic fabric of the recently accreted and sparsely sedimented seafloor. Near-bottom investigations document that abyssal hills owe most of their morphology to extensional faulting. Their tectonically-driven growth continues as far as ~35 km from the spreading axis, thus defining a broader plate boundary zone within which the parting plates acquire their steady-state motion. Abyssal hill morphology is sensitive to key aspects of seafloor accretion, and thus preserves accurate records of changing spreading rate, lithospheric thermal structure, and plate boundary geometry. In general, the slower the spreading rate, the larger their dimensions are. This relationship is modulated by regional variations in the thermal structure of the lithosphere, such as may be produced by proximity to hot spots, cold spots, or transform faults and non-transform ridge offsets. As divergent plate motion rafts the aging, subsiding oceanic lithosphere away from the mid-ocean ridge, abyssal hills are generally slowly buried beneath layers of sediments. However, extreme variability in sedimentation rates means that the burial of abyssal hills by sediments is not predictably related to the age of the lithosphere. In fact, the rugged fabric of the abyssal hills is transformed into the remarkably flat surface of the abyssal plains only where oceanic basins are within reach of the fast-moving turbidity currents that originate along the continental margins.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the public availability of multibeam bathymetric data through the National Geophysical Data Center (https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/bathymetry/multibeam.html) and GeoMapapp (http://www.geomapapp.org). These bathymetric data have been processed with MB-System and all figures have been generated with GMT, both freely available software (Caress et al. 2015; Wessel et al. 2013). We thank D. Sauter for the gridded bathymetric data of the Southwest Indian Ridge, T. Fujiwara for the gridded bathymetric data of the Japan Trench, a dataset compiled by the Japan Oceanographic Data Center and JAMSTEC, and D.K. Blackman for review.

References

  1. Abbott DH, Stein CA, Diachuk O (1992) Topographic relief and sediment thickness: their effects on the thermal evolution of the oceanic crust. Geophys Res Lett 19:1975–1978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander RT, Macdonald KC (1996) Sea Beam, SeaMARC II, and Alvin- based studies of faulting on the East Pacific Rise 9°20′–9°50′N. Mar Geophys Res 18:557–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barth GA, Kastens KA, Klein E (1994) The origin of bathymetric highs at ridge-transform intersections: a multi-disciplinary case study at the Clipperton Fracture Zone. Mar Geophys Res 16:1–50Google Scholar
  4. Behn MD, Ito G (2008) Magmatic and tectonic extension at mid-ocean ridges: 1. Controls on fault characteristics. Geochem Geophys Geosyst. doi: 10.1029/2008GC001965
  5. Buck WR, Lavier LL, Poliakov ANB (2005) Modes of faulting at mid-ocean ridges. Nature 434:719–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cann JR, Blackman DK, Smith DK, McAllister E, Janssen B, Mello SLM, Avgerinos A, Pascoe AR, Escartin J (1997) Corrugated slip surfaces formed at ridge-transform intersections on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Nature 385:329–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cann JR, Smith DK, Escartin J, Schouten H (2015) Tectonic evolution of 200 km of Mid-Atlantic Ridge over 10 million years—interplay of volcanism and faulting. Geochem Geophys Geosyst. doi: 10.1002/2015GC005797
  8. Cannat M, Sauter D, Mendel V, Ruellan E, Okino K, Escartin J, Combier V, Baala M (2006) Modes of seafloor generation at a melt-poor ultraslow-spreading ridge. Geology 34:605–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cannat M, Mangeney A, Ondréas H, Fouquet Y, Normand A (2013) High resolution bathymetry reveals contrasting landslide activity shaping the walls of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge axial valley. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 14:996–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cochran JR, Sempéré J-C, The SEIR Scientific Team (1997) The Southeast Indian Ridge between 88°E and 120°E: Gravity anomalies and crustal accretion at intermediate spreading rates. J Geophys Res 102(B7):15463–15487. doi: 10.1029/97JB00511
  11. Collette BJ (1986) Fracture zones in the North Atlantic: morphology and a model. J Geol Soc 143:763–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cormier MH, Scheirer DS, Macdonald KC (1996) Evolution of the East Pacific Rise at 16°-19°S since 5 Ma: bisection of overlapping spreading centers by new, rapidly migrating propagating ridge segments. Mar Geophys Res 18:53–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cowie PA, Scholtz CH, Edwards MH, Malinverno A (1993) Fault strain and seismic coupling on mid-ocean ridges. J Geophys Res 98:17911–17920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Croon MB, Cande SC, Stock JM (2010) Abyssal hill deflections at Pacific‐Antarctic ridge‐transform intersections. Geochem Geophys Geosyst doi: 10.1029/2010GC003236
  15. Caress DW, Chayes DN, dos Santos Ferreira, C (2015) MB-system seafloor mapping software—processing and display of swath sonar data. http://www.mbari.org/data/mbsystem
  16. Escartín J, Cowie PA, Searle RC, Allerton S, Mitchell NC, MacLeod CJ, Slootweg AP (1999) Quantifying tectonic strain and magmatic accretion at a slow spreading ridge segment, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 29°N. J Geophys Res 104(B5):10421–10437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fox PJ, Gallo DG (1984) A tectonic model for ridge-transform-ridge plate boundaries: implications for the structure of oceanic lithosphere. Tectonophysics 104:205–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fujiwara T, Kodaira S, No T, Kaiho Y, Takahashi N, Kaneda Y (2011) The 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake: displacement reaching the trench axis. Science 334:1240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goff JA (1991) A global and regional stochastic analysis of near-ridge abyssal hill morphology. J Geophys Res 96:21, 713–21,737. doi: 10.1029/91JB02275
  20. Goff JA (1992) Quantitative characterization of the abyssal hill morphology along flow lines in the Atlantic Ocean. J Geophys Res 97:9183–9202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goff JA (2015) Comments on “Glacial cycles drive variations in the production of oceanic crust”. Science 349:1065aCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goff JA, Tucholke BE, Lin J, Jaroslow GE, Kleinrock MC (1995) Quantitative analysis of abyssal hills in the Atlantic Ocean: a correlation between axis crustal thickness and extensional faulting. J Geophys Res 100:22509–22522. doi: 10.1029/95JB02510 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goff JA, Ma Y, Shah AK, Cochran JR, Sempéré J-C (1997) Stochastic analysis of seafloor morphology on the flank of the Southeast Indian Ridge: the influence of ridge morphology on the formation of abyssal hills. J Geophys Res 102:15521–15534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goff JA, Smith WHF, Marks KM (2004) The contributions of abyssal hills morphology and noise to altimetric gravity fabric. Oceanography 17:24–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grindlay NR, Fox PJ (1993) Lithospheric stresses associated with nontransform offsets of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: implications from a finite element analysis. Tectonics 12:982–1003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haymon RM, Macdonald KC, Benjamin SB, Ehrhardt CJ (2005) Manifestations of hydrothermal discharge from young abyssal hills on the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise flank. Geology 33:153–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heezen BC, Tharp M, Ewing M (1959) The floors of the oceans: I. The North Atlantic. Geological Society of America, Special Paper vol 65, p 126Google Scholar
  28. Hirano N, Takahashi E, Yamamoto J, Abe N, Ingle SP, Kaneoka I, Hirata T, Kimura JI, Ishii T, Ogawa Y, Machida S, Suyehiro K (2006) Volcanism in response to plate flexure. Science 313:1426–1428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kriner K, Pockalny RA, Larson RL (2006) Bathymetric gradients of lineated abyssal hills: inferring seafloor spreading vectors and a new model for hills formed at ultra-fast rates. Earth Planet Sci Lett 242:98–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lonsdale P (1977) Structural geomorphology of a fast-spreading rise crest: the East Pacific Rise near 3°25′S. Mar Geophys Res 3:251–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Luyendyk B (1970) Origin and history of abyssal hills in the northeast Pacific. Geol Soc Am Bull 81:2237–2260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Macdonald KC (1982) Mid-ocean ridges: fine scale tectonic, volcanic and hydrothermal processes within the plate boundary zone. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 10:155–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Macdonald KC, Fox PJ (1983) Overlapping spreading centers: new accretion geometry on the East Pacific Rise. Nature 302:55–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Macdonald KC, Luyendyk BP (1977) Deep-Tow studies of the structure of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge crest near lat 37°N. Geol Soc Am Bull 88:621–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Macdonald KC, Luyendyk BP (1985) Investigation of faulting and abyssal hill formation on the flanks of the East Pacific Rise (21°N) using ALVIN. Mar Geophys Res 7:515–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Macdonald KC, Fox PJ, Alexander RT, Pockalny R, Gente P (1996) Volcanic growth faults and the origin of Pacific abyssal hills. Nature 380:125–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. MacLeod CJ, Searle RC, Murton BJ, Casey JF, Mallows C, Unsworth SC, Achenbach KL, Harris M (2009) Life cycle of oceanic core complexes. Earth Planet Sci Lett 287:333–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Malinverno A (1991) Inverse square-root dependence of mid-ocean ridge flank roughness on spreading rate. Nature 352:58–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McNutt M (1984) Lithospheric flexure and thermal anomalies. J Geophys Res 89:11180–11194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Menard HW (1964) Marine geology of the Pacific. McGraw Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Mitchell NC, Tivey MA, Gente P (2000) Seafloor slopes at mid-ocean ridges from submersible observations and implications for interpreting geology from seafloor topography. Earth Planet Sci Lett 183:543–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Normark WR, Reid JA (2003) Extensive deposits on the Pacific plate from late Pleistocene North American glacial lake outbursts. J. Geology 111:617–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olive JA, Behn MD, Ito GT, Buck WR, Escartín J, Howell S (2015) Sensitivity of seafloor bathymetry to climate-driven fluctuations in mid-ocean ridge magma supply. Science 350:310–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Phipps Morgan J, Chen YJ (1993) Dependence of ridge-axis morphology on magma supply and spreading rate. Nature 364:706–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Phipps Morgan J, Parmentier EM (1984) Lithospheric stress near a ridge-transform inter-section. Geophys Res Lett 11:113–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rea DK (1975) Model for the formation of topographic features of the East Pacific Rise crest. Geology 3:77–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rea DK, Lyle MW, Liberty LM, Hovan SA, Bolyn MP, Gleason JD, Hendy IL, Latimer JC, Murphy BM, Paul CF, Rea THC, Stancin AM, Thomas DJ (2006) Broad region of no sediment in the southwest Pacific Basin. Geology 34:873–876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sauter D, Sloan H, Cannat M, Goff J, Patriat P, Schaming M, Roest WR (2011) From slow to ultra-slow: how does spreading rate affect seafloor roughness and crustal thickness? Geology 39:911–914. doi: 10.1130/G32028 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sauter D, Cannat M, Rouméjon S, Andreani M, Birot D, Bronner A, Brunelli D, Carlut J, Delacour A, Guyader V, MacLeod CJ, Manatschal G, Mendel V, Ménez B, Pasini V, Ruellan E, Searle R (2013) Continuous exhumation of mantle-derived rocks at the Southwest Indian Ridge for 11 million years. Nat Geosci 6:314–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Searle RC (1984) GLORIA survey of the East Pacific Rise near 3.5°S: tectonic and volcanic characteristics of a fast spreading mid-ocean rise. Tectonophysics 101:319–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Searle RC, Cowie PA, Mitchell NC, Allerton S, MacLeod CJ, Escartin J, Russell SM, Slootweg PA, Tanaka T (1998a) Fault structure and detailed evolution of a slow spreading ridge segment: the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 29°N. Earth Planet Sci Lett 154:167–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Searle RC, Keeton JA, Owens RB, White RS, Mecklenburgh R, Parsons B, Lee S-M (1998b) The Reykjanes Ridge: structure and tectonics of a hot-spot influences, slow-spreading ridge, from multibeam bathymetry, gravity and magnetic investigations. Earth Planet Sci Lett 160:463–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sempéré J-C, Palmer J, Christie DM, Phipps Morgan J, Shor AN (1991) The Australian-Antarctic discordance. Geology 19:429–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Severinghaus JP, Macdonald KC (1988) High inside corners at ridge-transform intersections. Mar Geophys Res 9:353–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shaw PR, Lin J (1993) Causes and consequences of variations in faulting style at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. J Geophys Res 98:21839–21851CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sloan H, Patriat P (1992) Kinematics of the North American-African plate boundary between 28° and 29°N during the last 10 Ma: evolution of the axial geometry and spreading rate and direction. Earth Planet Sci Lett 113:323–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sloan H, Patriat P (2004a) Generation of morphotectonic fabric on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge flanks, 28° to 29°N: Implications for the limits of tectonic deformation and abyssal hill formation. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 5. doi:10:1029/2004GC000584
  58. Sloan H, Patriat P (2004b) Reconstruction of the flanks of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 28° to 29°N: Implications for evolution of young oceanic lithosphere at slow-spreading centers. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 5. doi: 10.1029/2004GC000727
  59. Sloan H, Sauter D, Goff JA, Cannat M (2012) Abyssal hill characterization at the ultraslow spreading Southwest Indian Ridge. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 13. doi: 10.1029/2011GC003850
  60. Smith DK, Escartín J, Cannat M, Tolstoy M, Fox CG, Bohnenstiehl DR, Bazin S (2003) Spatial and temporal distribution of seismicity along the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge (15°–35°N). J Geophys Res 108 doi: 10.1029/2002JB001964
  61. Smith DK, Escartín J, Schouten H, Johnson JR (2008) Fault rotation and core complex formation: Significant processes in seafloor formation at slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges (Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 13°–15°N). Geochem Geophys Geosyst 9. doi: 10.1029/2007GC001699
  62. Sonder LJ, Pockalny RA (1999) Anomalously rotated abyssal hills along active transforms: distributed deformation of oceanic lithosphere. Geology 27:1003–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Talling PJ, Wynn RB, Masson DG, Frenz M, Cronin BT, Schiebel R, Akhmetzhanov AM, Dallmeier-Tiessen S, Benetti S, Weaver PPE, Georgiopoulou A, Zühlsdorff C, Amy LA (2007) Onset of submarine debris flow deposition far from original giant landslide. Nature 450:541–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wessel P, Smith WHF, Scharroo R, Luis JF, Wobbe F (2013) Generic mapping tools: improved version released. EOS Trans AGU 94(45):409–410. doi: 10.1002/2013EO450001
  65. Wilson DS (1990) Kinematics of overlapping rift propagation with cyclic rift failure. Earth Planet Sci Lett 96:384–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wright TJ, Sigmundsson F, Pagli C, Belachew M, Hamling IJ, Brandsdottir B, Keir D, Pedersen R, Ayele A, Ebinger CJ, Einarsson P, Lewi E, Calais E (2012) Geophysical constraints on the dynamics of spreading centers from rifting episodes on land. Nat Geosci 5:242–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA
  2. 2.Lehman CollegeCity University of New YorkBronxUSA

Personalised recommendations