Temporal and spatial variability in the composition of lavas exposed along the Western Blanco transform fault

Meagen A. Pollock, Emily M. Klein, Jeffrey A. Karson, Maurice A. Tivey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The northern scarp of the Western Blanco Transform (BT) Fault Zone provides a "tectonic window" into crust generated at an intermediate-rate spreading center, exposing a ∼2000 m vertical section of lavas and dikes. The lava unit was sampled by submersible during the Blancovin dive program in 1995, recovering a total of 61 samples over vertical distances of ∼1000 m and a lateral extent of ∼13 km. Major element analyses of 40 whole rock samples exhibit typical tholeiitic fractionation trends of increasing FeO*, Na2O, and TiO2 and decreasing Al 2O3 and CaO with decreasing MgO. The lava suite shows a considerable range in extent of crystallization, including primitive samples (Mg# 64) and evolved FeTi basalts (FeO > 12%; TiO2 > 2%). On the basis of rare earth element and trace element data, all of the lavas are incompatible-element depleted normal mid-ocean ridge basalts (N-MORB; La/Sm N < 1). The geochemical systematics suggest that the lavas were derived from a slightly heterogeneous mantle source, and crystallization occurred in a magmatic regime of relatively low magma flux and/or high cooling rate, consistent with magmatic processes occurring along the present-day southern Cleft Segment. The BT scarp reveals the oceanic crust in two-dimensional space, allowing us to explore temporal and spatial relationships in the horizontal and vertical directions. As a whole, the data do not appear to form regular spatial trends; rather, primitive lavas tend to cluster shallower and toward the center of the study area, while more evolved lavas are present deeper and toward the west and east. Considered within a model for construction of the upper crust, these findings suggest that the upper lavas along the BT scarp may have been emplaced off-axis, either by extensive off-axis flow or off-axis eruption, while the lower lavas represent axial flows that have subsided with time. A calculation based on an isochron model for construction of the upper crust suggests that the Cleft Segment requires at least ∼50 kyr to build the lower extrusive section, consistent to first order with independent estimates for the construction of intermediate-spreading rate crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberQ11009
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Accretion
  • Isochron
  • MORB

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Temporal and spatial variability in the composition of lavas exposed along the Western Blanco transform fault'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this