A Compensation Mechanism for the Central Pacific

Sandwell, DT, Poehls KA.  1980.  A Compensation Mechanism for the Central Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research. 85:3751-3758.


Geos 3 derived geoid heights and sea floor topography were averaged into 256 square areas (203 km on a side) for a region in the central Pacific containing a large portion of the Hawaiian Island chain. The whole region is about 500 m shallower than normal sea floor of the same age. The major portion of the depth anomaly is the Hawaiian swell. Data were analyzed using a two-dimensional fast Fourier transform. A transfer function was computed to determine the part of the observed geoid height that is coherent and in phase with the topography. A number of compensation models were tested against this function. Of these models no single physically reasonable model was found to have an acceptable fit. Accordingly, two models were introduced, one compensating short-wavelength topography at a shallow depth (14 km) and the other compensating the longer wavelengths by a deep mechanism. Acceptable deep compensation models include Airy-Heiskanen type compensation at depths between 40 and 80 km. Using the transition wavelength between the two models (1100 km), an estimate is made of the amplitude and shape of the heat anomaly needed to uplift the Hawaiian swell. The peak of the anomaly has an amplitude of 530 mW m−2 and is located 275 km east of Hawaii.