Rifting of Old Oceanic Lithosphere

Mammerickx, J, Sandwell D.  1986.  Rifting of Old Oceanic Lithosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets. 91:1975-1988.

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Geophysical data from five regions in the Pacific and Indian oceans reveal that long distance (>400 km) spreading center jumps have occurred in the past. The present-day seafloor morphology is used to develop a scenario for a spreading center jump. The major events are (1) thinning and weakening of the lithosphere at the future rifting site, (2) rifting of the weakened lithosphere (during rifting, the crack is filled from above by normal faulting and wedge subsidence; viscous upwelling fills the crack from below), (3) spreading at the rift site results in a ridge bounded by two troughs (spreading ceases at the dying spreading center, resulting in a deep central graben surrounded by flexural ridges; periods of slow spreading at both spreading centers produce rough topography), (4) ageing and cooling that produce a general deepening of the abandoned spreading ridge and also reduce the thermal contrast across the fossil rifting site. The new spreading center develops into a normal spreading rift. The major topographic expressions apparent in the seafloor today are the deep trough of the abandoned spreading center and the proximal and distal troughs which formed when the emerging spreading center bisected the fossil rifting site. The proximal trough (nearer the new spreading ridge) and the distal trough (farther from the new ridge) are first-order topographic features, 100–1000 km long and 300 km wide, resembling fracture zones with which they are often confused. They share with fracture zones the characteristic of bringing together fragments of lithosphere of different ages, but unlike fracture zones they are generally parallel to magnetic lineations.