Tectonics of ridge-transform intersections at the Kane fracture zone

J. A. Karson, H. J.B. Dick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


The Kane Transform offsets spreading-center segments of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by about 150 km at 24° N latitude. In terms of its first-order morphological, geological, and geophysical characteristics it appears to be typical of long-offset (>100 km), slow-slipping (2 cm yr-1) ridge-ridge transform faults. High-resolution geological observations were made from deep-towed ANGUS photographs and the manned submersible ALVIN at the ridge-transform intersections and indicate similar relationships in these two regions. These data indicate that over a distance of about 20 km as the spreading axes approach the fracture zone, the two flanks of each ridge axis behave in very different ways. Along the flanks that intersect the active transform zone the rift valley floor deepens and the surface expression of volcanism becomes increasingly narrow and eventually absent at the intersection where only a sediment-covered 'nodal basin' exists. The adjacent median valley walls have structural trends that are oblique to both the ridge and the transform and have as much as 4 km of relief. These are tectonically active regions that have only a thin (<200 m), highly fractured, and discontinuous carapace of volcanic rocks overlying a variably deformed and metamorphosed assemblage of gabbroic rocks. Overprinting relationships reveal a complex history of crustal extension and rapid vertical uplift. In contrast, the opposing flanks of the ridge axes, that intersect the non-transform zones appear to be similar in many respects to those examined elsewhere along slow-spreading ridges. In general, a near-axial horst and graben terrain floored by relatively young volcanics passes laterally into median valley walls with a simple block-faulted character where only volcanic rocks have been found. Along strike toward the fracture zone, the youngest volcanics form linear constructional volcanic ridges that transect the entire width of the fracture zone valley. These volcanics are continuous with the older-looking, slightly faulted volcanic terrain that floors the non-transform fracture zone valleys. These observations document the asymmetric nature of seafloor spreading near ridge-transform intersections. An important implication is that the crust and lithosphere across different portions of the fracture zone will have different geological characteristics. Across the active transform zone two lithosphere plate edges formed at ridge-transform corners are faulted against one another. In the non-transform zones a relatively younger section of lithosphere that formed at a ridge-non-transform corner is welded to an older, deformed section that initially formed at a ridge-transform corner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-98
Number of pages48
JournalMarine Geophysical Researches
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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