Variations in axial processes on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: The median valley of the MARK area

Jennifer R. Brown, Jeffrey A. Karson

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54 Scopus citations


Submersible observations and photogeology document dramatic variations in the distribution of young volcanic rocks, faulting, fissuring, and hydrothermal activity along an 80 km-long segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge south of the Kane Transform (MARK Area). These variations define two spreading cells separated by a cell boundary zone or a small-offset transform zone. The northern spreading cell is characterized by a median 'neovolcanic' ridge which runs down the axis of the median valley floor for 40 km. This edifice is as much as 4 km wide and 600 m high and is composed of very lightly sedimented basalts inferred to be < 5000 years old. It is the largest single volcanic constructional feature discovered to date on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The active Snake Pit hydrothermal vent field is on the crest of this ridge and implies the presence of a magma chamber in the northern spreading cell. In contrast, the southern cell is characterized by small, individual volcanos similar in size to the central volcanos in the FAMOUS area. Two of the volcanos that were sampled appear to be composed of dominantly glassy basaltic rocks with very light sediment cover; whereas, other volcanos in this region appear to be older features. The boundary zone between the two spreading cells is intensely faulted and lacks young volcanic rocks. This area may also contain a small-offset ( < 8 km) transform zone. Magmatism in the northern cell has been episodic and tens of thousands of years have lapsed since the last major magmatic event there. In the southern cell, a more continuous style of volcanic accretion appears to be operative. The style of spreading in the southern cell may be much more typical for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge than that of the northern cell because the latter is adjacent to the 150 km-offset Kane Transform that may act as a thermal sink along the MAR. Such large transforms are not common on the MAR, therefore, lithosphere produced in a spreading cell influenced by a large transform may also be somewhat atypical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-138
Number of pages30
JournalMarine Geophysical Researches
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • Seafloor spreading
  • tectonic extension
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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