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Ridge Jumps in 3D - Developing a New Numerical Tool to Examine the Dynamics of Mantle-Lithosphere Interaction

ORI Funded Research: 2011

Abstract

We propose to develop a new numerical tool capable of simulating the dynamics of mantle lithosphere interaction in three dimensions (3D).  This work is motivated by the observation that segments of the mid-ocean ridge network “jump” toward hot, localized upwelling in the mantle, or mantle plumes.  These ridge jumps repeat over time and cause large-scale changes to the geometry and evolution of the Earth’s tectonic plates.  Despite their importance, the processes that control the initiation of ridge jumps and the growth of new segments are very poorly understood.  One reason for the lack of studies addressing ridge jumps is that there is no numerical tool currently available that can adequately simulate the complex interactions between the viscous mantle and the stiff lithosphere in three dimensions.  After the development of a new 3-D particle-in-cell finite-difference code, we will apply our code to recent observations of ridge jumps and transform fault formation along the Galápagos Spreading Center and repeated ridge jumps in Iceland.  In addition to investigating ridge jumps, the proposed numerical code will be ideal for addressing numerous other problems involving 3-D mantle-lithosphere interaction, providing a previously unavailable set of capabilities for WHOI researchers that will help them to maintain a leadership role in marine geodynamics research in the future.

Last updated: January 3, 2012