Tectonic History and New Isochron Chart of the South-Pacific

Mayes, CL, Lawver LA, Sandwell DT.  1990.  Tectonic History and New Isochron Chart of the South-Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets. 95:8543-8567.

Date Published:



We have developed an internally consistent isochron chart and a tectonic history of the South Pacific using a combination of new satellite altimeter data and shipboard magnetic and bathymetric data. Highly accurate, vertical deflection profiles (1–2 μrad), derived from 22 repeat cycles of Geosat altimetry, reveal subtle lineations in the gravity field associated with the South Pacific fracture zones. These fracture zone lineations are correlated with sparse shipboard bathymetric identifications of fracture zones and thus can be used to determine paleospreading directions in uncharted areas. The high density of Geosat altimeter profiles reveals previously unknown details in paleospreading directions on all of the major plates. Magnetic anomaly identifications and magnetic lineation interpretations from published sources were combined with these fracture zone lineations to produce a tectonic fabric map. The tectonic fabric was then used to derive new poles of rotation for 12 selected times in the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic. From our reconstructions, we estimated the former location of the spreading centers in order to derive a new set of isochrons (interpreted unes of equal age on the ocean floor). We believe that the use of new Geosat altimeter data in combination with a multi-plate reconstruction has led to an improvement in our understanding of South Pacific tectonics.