Publications

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2015
O'Connor, JM, Hoernle K, Muller RD, Morgan JP, Butterworth NP, Hau F, Sandwell DT, Jokat W, Wijbrans JR, Stoffers P.  2015.  Deformation-related volcanism in the Pacific Ocean linked to the Hawaiian-Emperor bend. Nature Geoscience. 8:393-397.   10.1038/ngeo2416   AbstractWebsite

Ocean islands, seamounts and volcanic ridges are thought to form above mantle plumes. Yet, this mechanism cannot explain many volcanic features on the Pacific Ocean floor(1) and some might instead be caused by cracks in the oceanic crust linked to the reorganization of plate motions(1-3). A distinctive bend in the Hawaiian-Emperor volcanic chain has been linked to changes in the direction of motion of the Pacific Plate(4,5), movement of the Hawaiian plume(6-8), or a combination of both(9). However, these links are uncertain because there is no independent record that precisely dates tectonic events that affected the Pacific Plate. Here we analyse the geochemical characteristics of lava samples collected from the Musicians Ridges, lines of volcanic seamounts formed close to the Hawaiian-Emperor bend. We find that the geochemical signature of these lavas is unlike typical ocean island basalts and instead resembles mid-ocean ridge basalts. We infer that the seamounts are unrelated to mantle plume activity and instead formed in an extensional setting, due to deformation of the Pacific Plate. Ar-40/Ar-39 dating reveals that the Musicians Ridges formed during two time windows that bracket the time of formation of the Hawaiian-Emperor bend, 53-52 and 48-47 million years ago. We conclude that the Hawaiian-Emperor bend was formed by plate-mantle reorganization, potentially triggered by a series of subduction events at the Pacific Plate margins.

1997
Smith, WHF, Sandwell DT.  1997.  Global sea floor topography from satellite altimetry and ship depth soundings. Science. 277:1956-1962.   10.1126/science.277.5334.1956   AbstractWebsite

A digital bathymetric map of the oceans with a horizontal resolution of 1 to 12 kilometers was derived by combining available depth soundings with high-resolution marine gravity information from the Geosat and ERS-1 spacecraft. Previous global bathymetric maps lacked features such as the 1600-kilometer-long Foundation Seamounts chain in the South Pacific. This map shows relations among the distributions of depth, sea floor area, and sea floor age that do not fit the predictions of deterministic models of subsidence due to lithosphere cooling but may be explained by a stochastic model in which randomly distributed reheating events warm the lithosphere and raise the ocean floor.

1995
Levitt, DA, Sandwell DT.  1995.  Lithospheric Bending at Subduction Zones Based on Depth Soundings and Satellite Gravity. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 100:379-400.   10.1029/94jb02468   AbstractWebsite

A global study of trench flexure was performed by simultaneously modeling 117 bathymetric profiles (original depth soundings) and satellite-derived gravity profiles. A thin, elastic plate flexure model was fit to each bathymetry/gravity profile by minimization of the L(1) norm. The six model parameters were regional depth, regional gravity, trench axis location, flexural wavelength, flexural amplitude, and lithospheric density. A regional tilt parameter was not required after correcting for age-related trend using a new high-resolution age map. Estimates of the density parameter confirm that most outer rises are uncompensated. We find that flexural wavelength is not an accurate estimate of plate thickness because of the high curvatures observed at a majority of trenches. As in previous studies, we find that the gravity data favor a longer-wavelength flexure than the bathymetry data. A joint topography-gravity modeling scheme and fit criteria are used to limit acceptable parameter values to models for which topography and gravity yield consistent results. Even after the elastic thicknesses are converted to mechanical thicknesses using the yield strength envelope model, residual scatter obscures the systematic increase of mechanical thickness with age; perhaps this reflects the combination of uncertainties inherent in estimating flexural wavelength, such as extreme inelastic bending and accumulated thermoelastic stress. The bending moment needed to support the trench and outer rise topography increases by a factor of 10 as lithospheric age increases from 20 to 150 Ma; this reflects the increase in saturation bending moment that the lithosphere can maintain. Using a stiff, dry-olivine theology, we find that the lithosphere of the GDH1 thermal model (Stein and Stein, 1992) is too hot and thin to maintain the observed bending moments. Moreover, the regional depth seaward of the oldest trenches (similar to 150 Ma) exceeds the GDH1 model depths by about 400 m.

1994
Smith, WHF, Sandwell DT.  1994.  Bathymetric Prediction from Dense Satellite Altimetry and Sparse Shipboard Bathymetry. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 99:21803-21824.   10.1029/94jb00988   AbstractWebsite

The southern oceans (south of 30 degrees S) are densely covered with satellite-derived gravity data (track spacing 2-4 km) and sparsely covered with shipboard depth soundings (hundreds of kilometers between tracks in some areas). Flexural isostatic compensation theory suggests that bathymetry and downward continued gravity data may show linear correlation in a band of wavelengths 15-160 km, if sediment cover is thin and seafloor relief is moderate. At shorter wavelengths, the gravity field is insensitive to seafloor topography because of upward continuation from the seafloor to the sea surface; at longer wavelengths, isostatic compensation cancels out most of the gravity field due to the seafloor topography. We combine this theory with Wiener optimization theory and empirical evidence for gravity noise-to-signal ratios to design low-pass and band-pass filters to use in predicting bathymetry from gravity. The prediction combines long wavelengths (> 160 km) from low-pass-filtered soundings with an intermediate-wavelength solution obtained from multiplying downward continued, band-pass filtered (15-160 km) gravity data by a scaling factor S. S is empirically determined from the correlation between gravity data and existing soundings in the 15-160 km band by robust regression and varies at long wavelengths. We find that areas with less than 200 m of sediment cover show correlation between gravity and bathymetry significant at the 99% level, and S may be related to the density of seafloor materials in these areas. The prediction has a horizontal resolution limit of 5-10 km in position and is within 100 m of actual soundings at 50% of grid points and within 240 m at 80% of these. In areas of very rugged topography the prediction underestimates the peak amplitudes of seafloor features. Images of the prediction reveal many tectonic features not seen on any existing bathymetric charts. Because the prediction relies on the gravity field at wavelengths < 160 km, it is insensitive to errors in the navigation of sounding lines but also cannot completely reproduce them. Therefore it may be used to locate tectonic features but should not be used to assess hazards to navigation. The prediction is available from the National Geophysical Data Center in both digital and printed form.