Publications

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2012
Luttrell, K, Sandwell D.  2012.  Constraints on 3-D stress in the crust from support of mid-ocean ridge topography. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 117   10.1029/2011jb008765   AbstractWebsite

The direction of crustal stresses acting at mid-ocean ridges is well characterized, but the magnitude of these stresses is poorly constrained. We present a method by which the absolute magnitude of these stresses may be constrained using seafloor topography and gravity. The topography is divided into a short-wavelength portion, created by rifting, magmatism, and transform faulting, and a long-wavelength portion associated with the cooling and subsidence of the oceanic lithosphere. The short-wavelength surface and Moho topography are used to calculate the spatially varying 3-D stress tensor in the crust by assuming that in creating this topography, the deviatoric stress reached the elastic-plastic limiting stress; the Moho topography is constrained by short-wavelength gravity variations. Under these assumptions, an incompressible elastic material gives the smallest plastic failure stress associated with this topography. This short-wavelength topographic stress generally predicts the wrong style of earthquake focal mechanisms at ridges and transform faults. However, the addition of an in-plane regional stress field is able to reconcile the combined crustal stress with both the ridge and transform focal mechanisms. By adjusting the magnitude of the regional stress, we determine a lower bound for in situ ridge-perpendicular extension of 25-40 MPa along the slow spreading mid-Atlantic ridge, 40-50 MPa along the ultra-slow spreading ridges in the western Indian Ocean, and 10-30 MPa along the fast spreading ridges of the southeastern Indian and Pacific Oceans. Furthermore, we constrain the magnitude of ridge-parallel extension to be between 4 and 8 MPa in the Atlantic Ocean, between -1 and 7 MPa in the western Indian Ocean, and between -1 and 3 MPa in the southeastern Indian and Pacific Oceans. These observations suggest that a deep transform valley is an essential feature of the ridge-transform spreading center.

2009
Sandwell, DT, Smith WHF.  2009.  Global marine gravity from retracked Geosat and ERS-1 altimetry: Ridge segmentation versus spreading rate. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 114   10.1029/2008jb006008   AbstractWebsite

Three approaches are used to reduce the error in the satellite-derived marine gravity anomalies. First, we have retracked the raw waveforms from the ERS-1 and Geosat/GM missions resulting in improvements in range precision of 40% and 27%, respectively. Second, we have used the recently published EGM2008 global gravity model as a reference field to provide a seamless gravity transition from land to ocean. Third, we have used a biharmonic spline interpolation method to construct residual vertical deflection grids. Comparisons between shipboard gravity and the global gravity grid show errors ranging from 2.0 mGal in the Gulf of Mexico to 4.0 mGal in areas with rugged seafloor topography. The largest errors of up to 20 mGal occur on the crests of narrow large seamounts. The global spreading ridges are well resolved and show variations in ridge axis morphology and segmentation with spreading rate. For rates less than about 60 mm/a the typical ridge segment is 50-80 km long while it increases dramatically at higher rates (100-1000 km). This transition spreading rate of 60 mm/a also marks the transition from axial valley to axial high. We speculate that a single mechanism controls both transitions; candidates include both lithospheric and asthenospheric processes.

1992
Sandwell, DT, Schubert G.  1992.  Flexural Ridges, Trenches, and Outer Rises around Coronae on Venus. Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets. 97:16069-16083.   10.1029/92JE01274   AbstractWebsite

High-resolution altimetry collected by the Magellan spacecraft reveals trench and outer rise topographic signatures around major coronae (e.g. Eithinoha, Heng-0, Artemis, and Latona). In addition, Magellan synthetic aperature radar images show circumferential fractures in areas where the plates are curved downward. Both observations suggest that the lithosphere around coronae is flexed downward by the weight of the overriding coronal rim or by the negative buoyancy of subducted lithosphere. We have modelled the trench and outer rise topography as a thin elastic plate subjected to a line load and bending moment beneath die corona rim. The approach was tested at northern Freyja Montes where the best fit elastic thickness is 18 km, in agreement with previously published results. The elastic thicknesses determined by modelling numerous profiles at Eithinoha, Heng-0, Artemis, and Latona are 15, 40, 37, and 35 km, respectively. At Eithinoha, Artemis, and Latona where the plates appear to be yielding, the maximum bending moments and elastic thicknesses are similar to those found at the Middle America, Mariana, and Aleutian trenches on Earth, respectively. Estimates of effective elastic thickness and plate curvature are used with a yield strength envelope model of the lithosphere to estimate lithospheric temperature gradients. At Heng-0, Artemis, and Latona, temperature gradients are less than 10 K/km, which correspond to conductive heat losses of less than one half the expected average planetary value. We propose two scenarios for the creation of the ridge, trench, and outer rise topography: differential thermal subsidence and lithospheric subduction. The topography of Heng-0 is well matched by the differential thermal subsidence model. However, at Artemis and Latona the amplitudes of the trench and outer rise signatures are a factor of 5 too large to be explained by thermal subsidence alone. In these cases we favor the lithospheric subduction model wherein the lithosphere outboard of the corona perimeter subducts (rolls back) and the corona diameter increase.

McKenzie, D, Ford PG, Johnson C, Parsons B, Sandwell D, Saunders S, Solomon SC.  1992.  Features on Venus Generated by Plate Boundary Processes. Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets. 97:13533-13544.   10.1029/92JE01350   AbstractWebsite

Various observations suggest that there are processes on Venus that produce features similar to those associated with plate boundaries on Earth. Synthetic aperture radar images of Venus, taken with a radar whose wavelength is 12.6 cm, are compared with GLORIA images of active plate boundaries, obtained with a sound source whose wavelength is 23 cm. Features similar to transform faults and to abyssal hills on slow and fast spreading ridges can be recognized within the Artemis region of Venus but are not clearly visible elsewhere. The composition of the basalts measured by the Venera 13 and 14 and the Vega 2 spacecraft corresponds to that expected from adiabatic decompression, like that which occurs beneath spreading ridges on Earth. Structures that resemble trenches are widespread on Venus and show the same curvature and asymmetry as they do on Earth. These observations suggest that the same simple geophysical models that have been so successfully used to understand the tectonics of Earth can also be applied to Venus.