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Dynamics of Mantle Flow Around the Azores Triple Junction: Constraints from Bathymetry and Gravity Data
Ravi Darwin Sankar
Florida State University

Recommended Citation
Sankar, Ravi Darwin, "Dynamics of Mantle Flow Around the Azores Triple Junction: Constraints from Bathymetry and Gravity Data" (2009). Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 2086.

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A Thesis submitted to the Department of Geological Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science

Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2009

Copyright 2009 Ravi Darwin Sankar All Rights Reserved

The members of the Committee approve the Thesis of Ravi Darwin Sankar defended on March 06th, 2009.

Jennifer Georgen Professor Co-Directing Thesis

Jim Tull Professor Co-Directing Thesis

Vincent Salters Committee member

William Parker Committee member Approved: __________________________________________________ Leroy Odom, Chair, Department of Geological Sciences

The Graduate School has verified and approved the above named committee members.


To the four pillars of my life: God, my wife and my parents. I am not skilled to understand what God has willed or planned but walking with Him and you through this journey has given me strength. Danika, we were joined in marriage during the course of this study. I love you. You mean everything to me, without your love, encouragement and understanding I would not be able to make it. My parents, you have given me so much. This is your degree. Mom, thanks for continuous faith in me, and for teaching me that I should never relent. Dad, you always told me to never be satisfied with anything ordinary. Thanks for inspiring my love for earth sciences. We made it.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future Jeremiah 29:11-13


I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my advisor, Dr. Jennifer Georgen for her patience, understanding, professional and personal support throughout the duration of this project, as well as funding for the latter part of the research. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be part of this work. It has been a tremendous honor working with you. You made excellence a habit. Thank you! My advisory committee: Dr. Jim Tull, Dr. Vincent Salters and Dr. William Parker. I admire your intelligence and leadership. I am grateful for your comments and suggestions. Dr Stephen Kish, thanks for your presence in the lab and your encouragement. I am eternally grateful to the United States Department of State for the award of the FULBRIGHT Faculty Development Scholarship. You allowed me to integrate with a nation, university, people and culture that I have come to love and appreciate. Jacqui Gregoire, Amy Whitish, Renee-Hahn Burke, thanks for the second chance. There are not enough words to describe your excellence. Pastor Matt and Laura Cates, thanks for your friendship and support. It was a tremendous pleasure serving in ministry with you. Great is your faithfulness oh God! Your grace is enough for me. Thanks for never forsaking me. Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I owe you everything!


LIST OF ABSTRACT.vii 1. INTRODUCTION and MOTIVATION1 2. GEOLOGICAL SETTING OF STUDY AREA Mid-Atlantic Ridge.3 The Azores Triple Junction.4 The Terceira Rift.6 Mantle Plumes and the Azores Hotspot..8 Alternatives to the Thermal Plume Hypothesis.11 3. METHODOLOGY Bathymetry and Free-Air Gravity Data.....13 Mantle Bouguer Anomaly.14 4. RESULTS MBA Patterns along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge16 MBA Patterns for the Azores Archipelago and along the TR...18 5. DISCUSSION Azores/Terceira Rift Waist Width.....20 Influence of Triple Junction Geometry. 22 6. CONCLUSIONS..24 7. APPENDIX A...25 8. REFERENCES.37 9. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH..42

Figure 1: Location of primary study area in reference to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Basemap produced from data obtained by Smith and Sandwell (1997)....25 Figure 2: Map of the ridge-ridge-ridge (RRR) Azores Triple Junction indicating the branch locations of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Terceira Rift, in reference to the Azores hotspot...26 Figure 3: Simplified Azores Triple Junction geometry and ridge configuration, indicating variations in ridge spreading rate and plate motion with respect to the triple junction.....27 Figure 4: Regional location map of the Azores plateau indicating the existing position of the triple junction, the islands comprising the Azores volcanic archipelago as well as the major fracture zones in the region.............................................................28 Figure 5: Isotope systematics of Terceira Rift lavas.29 Figure 6: Averages of crustal thickness and Na8 at various mid-ocean ridges, as well as for the Azores region confirming the negative correlation of Na8 with Fe8..............................................................................................................30 Figure 7: Regional scale bathymetric map for the Azores Triple Junction, indicating shiptrack coverage, V-shaped bathymetric features as well as the location of the Azores hotspot, in reference to the triple junction.....................31 Figure 8: Free-air anomaly (FAA) map for the Azores region, reflecting the density contrast of the seafloor in the area.32 Figure 9: Map of Mantle Bouguer anomaly correction, generated from bathymetry data.33 Figure 10: Mantle Bouguer anomaly (MBA) map, calculated by subtracting the mantle Bouguer correction from FAA, while assuming a constant 5 km thick reference crust34 Figure 11: Axial bathymetry profile (11a) and filtered MBA profile (11b) along the Terceira Rift, with increasing distance from the Azores Triple Junction..........................................................................................................35 Figure 12: Along-isochron widths of residual bathymetric anomalies W, versus halfspreading rates U (12a). Figure 12b is a plot of along-isochron amplitudes of MBA plotted against ridge-hotspot distances..36



Mid-ocean ridge interactions with hotspots strongly affect mantle flow processes. This study analyzes the geophysical anomalies produced as a result of the interaction between a hotspot and an oceanic ridge-ridge-ridge triple junction, in close proximity to one another. The complex three dimensional (3D) nature of the Azores Triple Junction (ATJ), in which two near-collinear faster-spreading ridges are joined orthogonally with a slower-spreading ridge, provides an excellent opportunity to quantify the effect of triple junction geometry on along-axis magmatic accretion and mantle dynamic processes as a result of the interaction with a hotspot. For the ATJ, the faster-spreading ridges are two branches of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), and the slower-spreading ridge is the Terceira Rift (TR). Using shipboard bathymetry and satellite free-air gravity data, we obtain mantle Bouguer anomaly (MBA) by eliminating from free-air gravity the attractions of seafloor topography and a reference crust. Along the TR, the Azores hotspot has a maximum MBA axial gravity low of 100 mGal, suggesting localized crustal thickening, elevated mantle temperatures and/or low density mantle. The entire Azores plateau along the TR is associated with a large (~ -80 mGal) broad MBA low. Dispersion of plume material along the TR, a distance in the range of 550 km, is likely minimized by the rift systems obliqueness, immature nature and ultra-slow spreading rate, as well as the presence of the Gloria FZ. Further, along-axis profiles along the TR suggest that MBA shows a strong dependence on the tectonic segmentation of the ridge axis.



This investigation focuses on the dynamics and generalized characteristics of mantle flow processes in the vicinity of the Azores Triple Junction (ATJ). The ATJ is an oceanic ridge-ridge-ridge (RRR) triple junction formed at the intersection of the North American (NA), African (AF) and Eurasian (EA) plates. The ATJ is made up of northern and southern branches of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) and a third branch to the east of the MAR referred to as the Terceira Rift (TR). The TR represents a unique oceanic rift system situated within thickened, relatively old oceanic lithosphere and it exhibits both oceanic and continental features (Beier et al., 2008). The Azores archipelago is the surface manifestation of a hotspot that has come into contact with a mid-ocean ridge. Studies have shown that where a ridge and a plume coincide, a large quantity of melt production in the mantle, amplified crustal thickening, and unusually robust seafloor volcanism take place. The stable configuration of the ATJ offers an exceptional opportunity to study the interaction of three spreading centers with varying divergence rates in close proximity to a hotspot. The focused pattern of mantle upwelling characteristic of mantle plumes has a direct effect on the density structure of the upper mantle. It has been hypothesized that regions of ascending plume flow are related to negative density anomalies that are a consequence of high mantle temperatures and thickened crust. These variations are reflected in mantle Bouguer anomaly (MBA) maps (Kuo and Forsyth, 1988; Lin et al., 1990). MBA maps yield important information regarding mantle flow dynamics and can also help to characterize the interaction between the Azores hot spot and the ATJ. This research combines an analysis of shiptrack bathymetry and satellite altimeter gravity data in order to determine MBA for an area in the central Atlantic Ocean. The region of study for this investigation is the zone bordered by 350 N 450N, 250W 350W (Appendix A, Figure 1) with significant emphasis placed on the Azores hot spot complex, located between 340 and 450 N along the MAR, as well as on the Terceira Rift (Appendix 1

A, Figure 2). The unique setting of the Terceira Rift in the Azores Plateau, with an ultraslow spreading axis above a melting anomaly, also allows this research to address the fundamental question of how melting processes along extremely slowly-diverging ridges are influenced by mantle dynamics. This analysis reveals that the Azores plateau is characterized by a large regional MBA low, implying substantial crustal thickening and/or anomalously low mantle densities (e.g., due to an uncharacteristically warm mantle). An examination of the MBA signatures allowed us to delineate a 550 km length of the TR affected by the Azores hotspot. The amplitude of the anomaly along the TR is ~ -100 mGal. The presence of long-wavelength bathymetric and gravity anomalies, extending several hundred kilometers away from the Azores hotspot along the SMAR (South Mid-Atlantic Ridge) and NMAR (North Mid-Atlantic Ridge) axes, suggests that ridge-hotspot interaction near the triple junction occurs over a broad, three-dimensional region.


Mid Atlantic Ridge The Atlantic Ocean is the worlds second largest and youngest ocean, succeeding the Pacific Ocean, and is surrounded by the European, African, North and South American continents, as well as Antarctica. The Atlantic Ocean is characterized by an Sshaped elongated basin that extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north, southward into the Indian Ocean. Centrally located between the continental shores of the Atlantic is an underwater mountain range, known as the MAR. The MAR is a divergent boundary that separates the North American plate from the Eurasian plate in the North Atlantic, and the South American plate from the African plate in the South Atlantic. The ridge sits on top of a progressive bulge, referred to as the Mid-Atlantic rise, which proceeds along the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean. A relatively small number of volcanic islands located in close proximity to the axis of the MAR comprise the Azores archipelago. The origin and subsequent development of the Atlantic Ocean commenced with the break-up of Pangaea during the Triassic-Jurassic period about 230 million years ago. Around 200 Ma magmatic injection in the form of giant dike swarms began almost synchronously (Salters et al., 2003), providing a legacy of basaltic dikes and lavas over a vast area along the margins of the North and South American continents as well as on the Iberian peninsula of the European continent, referred to as the Central Atlantic magmatic province (CAMP) (Olsen, 1997). Rifting of the southern portion of the Atlantic, resulting in the separation of Africa and South America, initiated 135 Ma (Fowler, 2005). Northern Atlantic rifting continued through the Tertiary, leading to the separation of Greenland from North America and Eurasia (Fowler, 2005). Separation of the Atlantic continues today at the rate of several centimeters a year along the MAR. Seafloor magnetic data have been used extensively to aid in the determination of past and present spreading rates along the MAR. Asymmetric spreading has resulted in a west3

southwest migration of the MAR since 36 Ma (Searle, 1980). The current spreading rate of the MAR is on the order of 1 to 4 cm/yr half-rate, which categorizes it as a slow spreading ridge. The branch of the MAR immediately to the north of the ATJ is spreading at a half rate of 1.2 cm/yr, while the southern branch is diverging a little slower, at a half rate of 1.1 cm/yr (Georgen and Lin, 2002) (Appendix A, Figure 3). The spreading kinematics of the MAR in the vicinity of the ATJ have been well constrained for the past 10 Ma (Luis et al., 1994). There has been little along-axis variation in spreading rate during the last 7 Ma (Yang et al., 2006). As mentioned above, the ATJ is the site where the African, North American and Eurasian lithospheric plates meet. Along the MAR, the Pico (PFZ) and East Azores (EAFZ) fracture zones are located to the south of the triple junction, whereas the North Azores fracture zone (NAFZ) lies to the north of the triple junction (Appendix A, Figure 4). Between the NAFZ and the PFZ lie the Faial fracture zone, the Acor fracture zone and the Princess Alice fracture zone. The Azores Triple Junction A distinguishing feature of the global mid-ocean ridge system is the location where three plate boundaries come together at a single point. Such a geological setting is referred to as a triple junction. Triple junctions allow us a unique opportunity to study the geodynamics of the mantle and lithosphere (Georgen and Lin, 2002). Triple junctions are made up of three branches, each of which may be a transform fault (F), trench (T), or a ridge (R). There are many different triple junction configurations (McKenzie and Morgan, 1969), and these are thought to induce variations in along-axis flow and thermal patterns (Georgen and Lin, 2002). The two fastest spreading ridges of the ATJ have nearly equal spreading rates and are roughly collinear, forming a trend which the slowest spreading ridge, the Terceira Rift, intersects quasi-orthogonally (Appendix A, Figure 3). High resolution studies of RRR triple junctions have shown that, rather than meeting at a strict geometrical point, the

three spreading branches often fail to connect (Georgen and Lin, 2002). The ATJ is an example of a region of such non-connectivity. The slowest spreading branch of the ATJ is detached from the triple junction by a zone of diffuse deformation, leading to the suggestion that spreading takes place across an expansive area, rather than linearly along three well defined ridges (Searle, 1980). The inability of the slowest spreading ridge to be attached to the faster ridges is expected to minimize the overall upwelling beneath the triple junction, and thus counteract some degree of the enhanced upwelling caused by triple junction geometry (Georgen and Lin, 2002). There is evidence that the ATJ has existed since approximately 45 Ma (Krause and Watkins, 1970; Searle, 1980). About 36 Myr ago, the ATJ migrated northward from the meeting point of the EAFZ and the MAR to its current position at 38.550N, 30.00W (Appendix A, Figure 4) (Yang et al., 2006). With this migration, the triple junction also experienced a change in its configuration from ridge-fault-fault (RFF) to ridge-ridgeridge (RRR). Various authors have suggested mechanisms explaining the evolution of the triple junction but aspects remain unclear. For example, Searle (1980) expanded on two earlier theories put forward by Krause and Watkins (1970) and McKenzie and Morgan (1969), saying that a reversal in the relative motion between the Eurasian and African plates produced an element of extension across the EAFZ, which led to the origin of the Terceira Rift. The Azores volcanic plateau is characterized by the presence of topographical roughs that protrude from the sea surface, leading to the formation of the islands of the Azores archipelago (Appendix A, Figure 4). The islands are arranged along a WNW ESE direction and cross the MAR obliquely, while being limited by the EAFZ to the south. On the eastern side of the MAR, a series of en echelon basins extending from the West Graciosa Basin to the Formigas Trough, as well as the islands of Graciosa, Terceira, S.Miguel, S.Maria, S.Jorge, Faial and Pico, all combine to form the linear trending structure that is the Terceira Rift. On the western side of the MAR, on the American plate, lie the islands of Corvo and Flores (Miranda et al., 1998).

As discussed in more detail below, the Azores plateau probably formed by a melting anomaly in the mantle either as a result of a small thermal plume (Luis et al. 1998, Cannat et al. 1999, Vogt and Jung, 2004) or of anomalously volatile-enriched mantle (e.g., Bonatti, 1990). The current position of the postulated Azores plume conduit is likely ~100300 km east of the triple junction and to the south of the Terceira Rift, in the locality of Faial Island (Schilling, 1991; Zhang and Tanimoto, 1992; Georgen and Lin, 2002; Yang et al. 2006). Recent research has invoked the possible presence of a mantle plume beneath the area surrounding the triple junction as the driving force behind plate boundary reorganization in the ATJ (Yang et al. 2006). According to Yang et al. (2006), southwestward movement of the Eurasian and African plates in relation to the hotspot reference frame, coupled with hot upwelling mantle east of the Acor and North Azores fracture zones, served to weaken the overlying lithosphere between the EAFZ and the present-day Terceira Rift. This led to the generation of a new rift adjacent to the plume center and the corresponding northward relocation of the triple junction toward the center of the plume. Interaction between a mantle plume and a triple junction may result in the formation of a large igneous province (LIP) (Sager et al., 1999). The genesis of a LIP or an oceanic plateau begins as plate migration brings a triple junction into the vicinity of a mantle plume. As the plume fuses with the triple junction, it delivers to it anomalously warm asthenospheric mantle material, resulting in voluminous magmatic activity and anomalous geophysical and geochemical signatures (Georgen, 2008). It is possible that interaction between the Azores hotspot and ATJ enhanced volcanism in the Azores Plateau. The Terceira Rift The Terceira Rift is an integral component of the Azores Plateau. Located to the east of the MAR, in the vicinity of the northeastern edge of the Azores Plateau, this 550 km long axis forms the third branch of the RRR triple junction involving the North American, Eurasian and African plates, and has been proposed to be an ultra-slow diverging

spreading ridge (Vogt and Jung, 2004). The predicted opening rates along the TR based on plate motion closure about the triple junction decrease from 0.45 cm/yr in close proximity to the triple junction, to 0.39 cm/yr at the eastern end of the Azores Plateau (Vogt and Jung, 2004). The Terceira Rift is a relatively recent feature; divergence likely began only in the last 5 Myr (Luis et al., 1998; Vogt and Jung, 2004; Georgen, 2008). Thus, the Terceira Rift is a unique example of oceanic rifting that exhibits both continental (e.g. lithospheric thickness) and oceanic (melt availability, segmentation pattern) features (Beier et al., 2008). The Terceira Rift is characterized by unusual morphological characteristics (Vogt and Jung, 2004). An earlier study (Searle, 1980) found that the Terceira Rift is made up of a number of echelon basins, with volcanic massifs and ridges situated on both sides. Ultraslow spreading ridges often consist of connected magmatic and amagmatic accretionary ridge segments that exist together over millions of years (Dick et al., 2003). Magmatic segments of oceanic ridges may in some cases construct large volcanic structures, leading to the evolution of volcanic islands. Three of the nine volcanic islands (Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa) of the Azores archipelago are situated directly along the axis and are separated by deep avolcanic basins (Beier et al., 2008). Additionally, along ultra-slow ridges, segments can transition between varying angular orientations in order to form stable plate boundaries (Dick et al., 2003). The Terceira Rift consists of a continuous line of ridge segments that vary in their obliqueness to the direction of relative plate motion, ranging from 400 to 650 (Vogt and Jung, 2004). Although the opening rates of the two MAR branches exceed that of the Terceira Rift (Appendix A, Figure 3), it has been noted that the amplitudes and wavelengths of seafloor topographic variations along the two ridges are similar (Vogt and Jung, 2004). Also, the widths of the volcanic islands (30-60 km) are analogous to the MAR axial valley widths (20-40 km). The inter-island basin depths lie within the range of other ultra-slow spreading ridges (Vogt and Jung, 2004). The Terceira Rift valley is approximately 1500 m deeper than the rift valley associated with the MAR; this is

thought to be the result of the very slow opening rate, and hence thicker axial lithosphere (Vogt and Jung, 2004). Mantle Plumes and the Azores Hot Spot The plume hypothesis was initially proposed by Wilson (1963) and Morgan (1971) to explain the clear age-progressive chains of volcanic islands that extend across the ocean basins. Wilson postulated that these volcanic chains were produced by plates moving over stationary hotspots in the mantle. Morgan reasoned that if Wilsons theory was accurate, hotspots comprising mantle plumes should originate from deep in the mantle. The Azores hotspot is likely to considerably influence the geodynamics of the ATJ because of its close proximity to the triple junction. One of the strongest lines of evidence that suggests the Azores hotspot has a direct impact on the MAR is the presence of offaxis V-shaped ridge bathymetric features (Escartin et al., 2001; Yang et al., 2006). Vshaped ridges can originate from a pulsing, dehydrating and radially flowing mantle plume (Ito, 2001). More specifically, Escartin et al. (2001) contend that the bathymetry, tectonic structure and gravity data around the ATJ demonstrate that the V-shaped ridges result from the emplacement of anomalously large volumes of magma at the ridge axis. These time dependent V-shaped ridges exhibit an east-west asymmetry (Appendix A, Figure 4) that may be the result of sub-lithospheric flow between the MAR and an offaxis plume (Yang et al., 2006). Also, although V-shaped bathymetric highs are seen to extend southwestward along the MAR, they are not prominent along the MAR to the north of the triple junction, suggesting the flow of plume material dispersed preferentially in the southerly direction (Cannat et al., 1999). The presence of the Azores hotspot also imparts prominent bathymetry and gravity anomalies on the MAR axis. The most pronounced effect of the Azores hot spot on the MAR occurs along a relatively short section of the ridge between 380N and 400N (Detrick et al., 1995). In this area, the ridge axis rapidly shoals by more than 1000 m, crustal thickening takes place, and the deep axial rift valley that characterizes the MAR in much

of the North Atlantic disappears (Detrick et al., 1995). The Azores hotspot influence on the MAR is also reflected in both the free air anomaly (FAA) and MBA. Detrick et al. (1995) found that FAA is more positive toward the Azores while the MBA becomes more negative, with the entire Azores platform being associated with a large (-60 mGal amplitude) negative MBA. Residual bathymetry and MBA anomalies are a maximum at the Azores hotspot and decrease southward, until becoming insignificant at distances of approximately 500-750 km (Ito and Lin, 1995). In contrast, Goslin et al. (1999) found that negative values of MBA extend north to 43005N, a distance of only approximately 300 km along the ridge axis. In general, the absence of geophysical anomalies associated with the presence of the hotspot northward of 430N appears to be indicative of a weak mantle plume influence along the ridge north of the Azores (Goslin et al., 1999; Yang et al., 2006). There is also significant geochemical evidence pointing to the influence of the Azores hotspot on nearby ridge magmatism. Rock samples acquired from the vicinity of the ATJ display enriched mid-ocean ridge basalt (E-MORB) signatures with distinctive characteristics in trace element and isotopic ratios such as La/Sm, 87Sr/86Sr,
206 143


Pb/204Pb, and 3He/4He. For example, White et al. (1976) found generally high 87Sr/86Sr

ratios along the SMAR. The elevated 87Sr/86Sr ratios south of the ATJ were interpreted as being the result of mixing of depleted mantle and plume material, consistent with the influence of the Azores hotspot, and correlate well with changes in mid-ocean ridge depth, suggesting a close link between underlying mantle composition and physical ridge characteristics. Axial 87Sr/86Sr ratios over the NMAR display long wavelength variations (Goslin et al., 1998), reflecting a broad pollution of the asthenosphere by radiogenic Sr mantle material, which has been partly depleted of incompatible elements and may be related to the partial melting and dispersion of the Azores plume (Fontignie and Schilling, 1996). Beier et al. (2008) found that lavas from the volcanic systems of the TR return generally elevated Sr isotope ratios but highly variable and distinct
143 143

Nd/144Nd ratios. The lowest


Nd/144Nd occurs in rocks from Sao Miguel with slightly higher

Nd/144Nd ratios at

Graciosa, and the most radiogenic


Nd/144Nd in lavas from Terceira. Appendix A, Nd/144Nd vs.


Figure 5 shows that on a diagram of


Sr/86Sr, all lavas of the Terceira

Rift (except Sao Miguel) lie on a broad positive correlation, while Sao Miguel forms a well correlated array, orthogonal to the other Terceira Rift lavas. In general, Beier et al. (2008) showed that each volcanic section of the TR forms a unique trend in Sr-Nd-Pb isotope space in which the systems of the TR as well as the MAR converge at a composition with 87Sr/86Sr 0.7035, 143Nd/144Nd 0.5129, and 206Pb/204Pb 19.5. Helium isotopic data for basalts from the MAR and Azores archipelago show that the Azores has 3He/4He ratios both higher and lower than nearby MORB values (Moreira et al., 1999). In general, the wavelength of He isotope variation is sometimes less than that of other tracers such as Sr and Pb isotopes (Schilling et al., 1998) where plumes affect spreading ridges. This has been attributed to a relatively deep degassing process within the rising mantle plume, causing a strong peak in the helium anomaly in the vicinity of the plume center while relatively degassed plume material that is still effectively traced by Sr, Nd or Pb isotopes becomes laterally dispersed at shallower depths (Schilling et al., 1998). In the Azores, 3He/4He ranges between 3.5 RA and 15 RA (Kurz et al., 1990; Moreira et al., 1999; Moreira and Allegre 2002), with the highest values concentrated near the triple junction or in association with the volcanic islands. There is also a good co-variation of 3He/4He with Pb isotopes at the scale of the archipelago, indicating considerable He isotope heterogeneity within the mantle source region (Moreira et al., 1999). The lowest 3He/4He is associated with elevated

Pb/204Pb in basalts from Sao

Miguel while the highest 3He/4He occurs in lavas from Terceira that has 207Pb/204Pb that is closer to typical MORB. The low 3He/4He signature at Sao Miguel is attributed to shallow level mixing between the plume and portions of continental lithosphere that occurred during rifting and opening of the North Atlantic. Major element geochemical studies provide further evidence for excess mantle temperatures related to enhanced melting at hot-spot influenced ridges (Ito et al., 2003). According to Langmuir et al. (1992) extensive melting can be triggered by high mantle temperatures and/or variations in mantle composition. Extensive mantle melting leads to


thicker crust and a low concentration of the incompatible element Na. Other elements such as Fe are sensitive to the depth at which melting originates. Shen and Forsyth (1995) showed that anomalously hot mantle begins to melt deeper and has a relatively high Fe content with a relatively low Na content, consistent with evidence of a negative correlation between regional averages of Fe8 and Na8 (Klein and Langmuir, 1987). For the Azores region, observed values are lower in Na8 and higher in Fe8 (Shen and Forsyth, 1995) (Appendix A, Figure 6). Alternatives to the Thermal Plume Hypothesis There has been ongoing debate as to whether or not the Azores hotspot is caused by the influence of a mantle plume. Several lines of evidence point to the hotspot as a plumelike structure. For example, the hotspot is associated with bathymetry and gravity anomalies (Detrick et al., 1995; Ito and Lin, 1995; Cannat et al., 1999). Finite frequency seismic tomography, employing the use of P-wave velocity, may indicate the existence of a distinct, deep, thermal plume in the vicinity of the Azores, although resolution issues may introduce ambiguity (Montelli et al. 2004). Excessive volcanism associated with the formation of the Azores islands lends further support to the existence of the Azores hotspot (Moreira and Allegre, 2002). Although the excess volcanism and crustal accretionary processes in the Azores region may result from the effects of anomalously high mantle temperatures related to a thermal plume, there is evidence to suggest that Azores hotspot volcanism may instead be caused by compositionally distinct mantle. Bonatti (1990) found that the presence of H2O and CO2 enriched domains in the upper mantle around the Azores hotspot, inferred on the basis of geo-thermometry of basalt and peridotite data, served to lower the solidus melting temperature of the hotspot mantle by hundreds of degrees and enhance partial melting. The elevated enrichments in light rare-earth elements (LREE) and the high La/Sm ratio of Azores hotspot basalts coupled with the abundance of incompatible largeion lithophile elements (LILE), serve as a catalyst for enhanced melting (White et al., 1976), evidence for compositional plume involvement as opposed to a thermal plume.


The presence of compositionally-distinct material beneath the whole Azores Platform and west of the MAR may explain the young volcanism of the two islands west of the MAR by passive melting of enriched material within the mantle anomaly (Beier et al., 2008). The lack of consistent tomographic evidence for all plumes has led to the notion that hotspots could instead be the manifestation of shallow, plate related stresses that would fracture the lithosphere, causing volcanism to occur (Foulger and Natland, 2003). With the presence of three plate boundaries and a diffuse zone of deformation around the triple junction point, it is likely that a complex pattern of lithospheric stress exists in the Azores region. Further, the non-existence of a clear age progression along the islands of the Azores archipelago, unlike whats observed along the Hawaiian island chain, is one of the most potent arguments against plume involvement. A goal of this investigation is to better constrain the excess volcanism around the ATJ, and particularly along the Terceira Rift, to investigate the relative importance of plume vs. plate boundary magmatism in the region.


The unique geometry of the Azores, coupled with the magnitude of the buoyant topography, the long wavelength bathymetric and gravity gradients, and the geochemical anomalies observed along the MAR and Terceira Rift, provide an opportunity to explore hotspot-related mantle flow and thermal patterns around an oceanic RRR triple junction. This study adds further constraint to ATJ-Azores hotspot interactions by calculating MBA and analyzing gravity anomalies along the Terceira Rift. Bathymetry and Free-Air Gravity Data The bathymetry data for this study were obtained from Smith and Sandwell (1997), in which a digital, bathymetric map of the oceans was derived by combining sparse measurements of seafloor depth from shipboard soundings with dense high resolution satellite marine gravity information obtained from the Geosat and ERS-1 spacecraft (Smith and Sandwell, 1997). This combination of data yields a global uniform level of resolution (1), ideal for displaying major tectonic features, and serves to increase our understanding of the accretionary processes along nearly all mid-ocean spreading centers (Smith and Sandwell, 1997). Data quality and spatial density are the most important aspects of bathymetric prediction. The onset of international programs on ridge research has increased detailed surveying of the northern Atlantic, with swath bathymetry measurements over the MAR domain as well as the Azores Plateau. The plot of these shiptracks (Appendix A, Figure 7) shows the ridge axis has very dense coverage. bathymetric analysis. Around the ATJ, shiptracks are rather concentrated on some lanes but nevertheless have a good spatial coverage for sufficient


Free-air gravity data were taken from the satellite altimetry-derived gravity grid of Sandwell and Smith (1997). The resolution of the map is 2 minutes. Free-air anomaly is dominated by the gravitational effect of the seafloor topography, but also contains signals from deeper interfaces, such as the crust-mantle density contrast. Appendix A, Figure 8 shows an example of a free-air gravity map which contains signals from sediments, seafloor topography, crustal and mantle density anomalies. Mantle Bouguer Anomaly (MBA) In order to isolate the effects of sub-seafloor density structure on gravity in the ATJ region, and to reveal the more subtle crust and mantle anomalies, MBA (Appendix A, Figure 10) is generated by subtracting from free-air gravity data, the MBA correction (Appendix A, Figure 9) due to the computed attractions of the seafloor/water and the crust/mantle interfaces assuming a constant density crust (Kuo and Forsyth, 1988). The gravity effects of the water-crust and crust-mantle density interfaces were calculated using Parkers (1973) upward continuation two-dimensional fast Fourier transforms (FFT) approach. The modeled crust was assumed to be 5 km in thickness while the densities for seawater, crust, and mantle were assumed to be 1030, 2800, and 3300 kg/m3 respectively. The gravity effects were subsequently removed from the FAA at each point along the ship-tracks and gridded in order to obtain MBA. MBA variations can arise from differences in crustal thickness, variations in crustal or upper mantle density, or a combination of these effects (Lin et al, 1990; Detrick et al., 1995). Some of the factors that lead to an MBA gravity low are considerable crustal thickening, anomalously warm mantle, or low crustal or mantle density due to compositional effects. Thus, plume-affected areas are expected to have relatively low MBA. Many studies involving MBA calculations often contain a subsequent step in which the predicted, gravitational effects of the cooling of the lithospheric mantle is considered. The thermal correction associated with this effect of cooling with age is removed from the MBA signal and the resulting anomaly is called the residual MBA (RMBA). An uncertainty in lithospheric ages in the vicinity of the TR made the


determination of the lithospheric cooling correction for this investigation impossible and as a result, RMBA was not calculated. The calculation of MBA requires independent bathymetry and gravity data sets. However, since both of the globally-gridded bathymetry and gravity data sets used for this study contain information from satellite-derived sea surface height, it is necessary to remove this component from one of the data sets. Accordingly, seafloor depths are extracted from the predicted topography database only along lines constrained by shiptrack soundings, using data flags provided by Smith and Sandwell (1997). The trackline bathymetry data were then projected onto a 2n by 2m grid, where n and m are integers, because the use of Fourier transforms in the MBA program requires the number of grid points in the east-west (x) and north-south directions (y) to be powers of 2. For this calculation, the number of grid points in the x and y directions were 512 and 256, respectively, resulting in grid spacings of dx = 4.7 km and dy = 7.0 km. The MBA grid for this study was filtered using a 40-km low-pass filter, to eliminate wavelengths below which shiptrack gravity does not correlate well with satellite-derived gravity.


The ATJ is characterized by a large regional MBA low, with distinct intermediate to long wavelength trends along the TR and the MAR, suggesting that the Azores hotspot influences the thermal structure of accretionary processes, at least to the extent of our map limits (30- 460N). Although the MBA lows seem to preferentially extend along the ridges, there is an area beneath the intersection of the TR and the SMAR between 32503300W longitude and 360-400N latitude, in which the anomalies appear to be characterized by a circular gravity low pattern. Detrick et al. (1995) defined the shape of the MBA low around the triple junction and the SMAR as a bulls eye, in agreement with our observations. MBA Patterns Along the MAR Along the MAR, bathymetry and MBA values to the north and the south of the triple junction differ considerably. Along the SMAR between 350N and 400N, figures 5 and 8 reveal bathymetric and gravity anomalies that extend several hundred kilometers alongaxis from the Azores. We follow Cannat et al. (1999) in suggesting that the longwavelength bathymetry anomaly extending southwards along ~700 km of the MAR in an oblique V-shaped pattern is indicative of southward buoyant mantle plume material flow from the Azores hotspot, during a period of highly focused magmatism. Our MBA map for the same region shows that the waist width (W, the length of ridge showing hotspotrelated anomalies) of the on-axis gravity lows correlates well with the shallow areas of the V-shaped ridge. We define the plume waist width along the SMAR to extend southwards from the triple junction to a latitude of 340N. This agrees well with the length of the strontium (87Sr/86Sr) anomaly along the same branch of the MAR (Ito et al., 2003). The highest-amplitude off-axis gravity low (-95 mGal) is associated with the region to the west of Faial Island at ~3300 W, 380 N and extends continuously along the southern branch of the ridge to ~3260 W, 360 N, coinciding with the southern termination


of the V-shaped ridge where MBA is approximately -85 mGal. The axial MBA values progressively increase southwards to -60 mGal at the southern extent of our map limits. Discontinuities between segments along the SMAR (Detrick et al., 1995) lead to shortwavelength but significant variations in the amplitude of the gravity signatures. For example, between 3240 W, ~350 N and 3250 W, ~350 N, there is a significant offset in the ridge system called the Oceanographer transform. South of the Oceanographer transform there is a large (-80 mGal) circular gravity low centered over the segment midpoint at 324.50 W. In general, the low MBA values coupled with the bathymetric trends observed along the slow-spreading southern MAR domain indicate a pattern of segment-scale melt focusing processes (Kuo and Forsyth 1988; Lin et al., 1990) leading to locally increased melt production, superimposed over longer-wavelength trends associated with the Azores hotspot. Interpretation of the MBA signature along the NMAR in Figure 8 points to the comparatively restricted influence of the Azores hotspot on ridge accretionary processes north of the triple junction. From the intersection of the ATJ northwards to ~430N, MBA magnitudes increase slowly, from -60 to -40 mGal. We define waist width along the NMAR to extend from the intersection of the triple junction at 39.80N to ~42.80 N, a distance of approximately 300 km. This geophysical value of W for the NMAR compares well to the geochemical waist width observed by Goslin et al. (1999), in which basalts with increasingly lower (Nb/Zr) ratios were recovered progressively northwards of the Azores triple junction, with an abrupt change from enriched (Nb/Zr = 1.6) to depleted (Nb/Zr = 0.7) basalts at the 420N discontinuity. Consistent with our observations, Goslin et al. (1999) placed the northerly limit of the Azores hotspot influence on the MAR between a transition zone of 430N and 440N. In direct contrast, our value of W for the SMAR is ~700 km away from the hotspot. At 350N, the existence of the Oceanographer transform fault may serve to offset the ridge out of the primary area of plume influence which acts to progressively decrease the plume waist width (Detrick et al., 1999). Unlike the SMAR, however, no major


transform discontinuity offsets the axis of the NMAR. Conceptually, the absence of transforms over the northern domain would encourage the along-axis flow of plume material thereby promoting longer plume waist widths (Georgen et al., 2001). The MBA signature though, does not support this observation. Instead, following Goslin et al. (1999) the influence of the plume processes on the NMAR appears to be closely constrained along the ridge axis with minimal off-axis plume dispersion, indicative of a steeper horizontal temperature gradient in the upper mantle over the northern domain. Results from the bathymetric and MBA analysis along the NMAR suggest a relatively thinner crust emplaced by lower magmatic output underlying the northern domain, compared to the SMAR. Another significant difference between the structures of the section of the ridge north of the ATJ and that observed south is the absence of V-shaped bathymetric features on the northern flanks of the ridge, implying different temporal and spatial variation in melt supply in NMAR-hotspot interactions compared with SMARhotspot interactions. MBA Patterns for the Azores Archipelago and Along the TR MBA values obtained for the entire Azores plateau are large and negative, allowing us to characterize the overall spatial extent of the gravity anomaly over the region as expansive. From the intersection of the triple junction trending eastward, the MBA pattern forms a broad, circular low (-100 mGal to -95 mGal) in the vicinity of Faial Island (38.70N, 3310W). The islands of Graciosa (-75 mGal) and Terceira (-100 mGal) return prominent MBA lows similar to that of Faial. Appendix A, Figure 11b shows that the lowest value of MBA along the axis of the TR occurs at Terceira Island. The more gradual slopes on either side of the MBA low at Terceira Island may mirror small variations in crustal thickness or upwelling rate, and/or along-axis mantle temperature gradients. MBA lows are also found in the region of the remaining volcanic features along the axis of the Terceira Rift including Castro Bank (-60 mGal), Sao.Miguel (-70 mGal) and S.Maria (-45 mGal) (Figure 12b). The MBA signature stops abruptly at the Gloria Fracture Zone (GFZ) with a regional high of -40 mGal, approximately 550 km


away from the triple junction. This places the easterly limit of the influence of the Azores hotspot on the accretionary processes along the TR at 3360 W longitude. The varying amplitudes of the axial depth anomalies along the TR reflect significant along-ridge variations in the rift morphology. The along-axis depth profile (Appendix A, Figure 11a) of the TR from the ATJ to the GFZ indicates an alternating pattern between topographic highs and lows consistent with the avolcanicvolcanic pattern observed by Beier et al. (2008). From Graciosa towards the triple junction, the TR loses its distinctiveness as evident by a decline in valley depth and width, as well as along-strike relief. To the east, large magmatic segments along the TR, corresponding to topographic highs, are spaced quasi-regularly in intervals of about 100 km (Vogt and Jung, 2004). These volcanic ridges are characterized by excess crust and/or lower mantle density as verified by regional MBA lows. The topographic valleys that separate the volcanic islands and seamounts are deep basins and may be attributed to unfilled segments left as a result of volcanic growth around them (Saemundsson, 1986), or may alternatively be interpreted as segment ends (Vogt and Jung, 2004). These basins show valley depths from 1 to 2 km, while the average axial anomaly amplitude observed at each volcanic feature is 2 to 3 km.



Ridge-plume interactions strongly modify melting of the mantle under the ridge and typically result in shallower seafloor and thicker accretion of oceanic crust (Schilling et al., 1983) while some hot spot-ridge interactions construct huge volcanic edifices in the form of oceanic plateaus (Ito et al., 2003). To place the Azores/TR system in global context, Appendix A, Figure 12b shows the relationship between the amplitude of the mantle Bouguer anomalies and ridge-hotspot distance. Hotspots in close proximity to ridges such as Iceland (D < 50 km) display the most negative MBA (MBA) (-250 to 340 mGal). At ridge-hotspot distances of 5001500 km, the hotspot signatures weaken to the extent that they become almost non-existent and are impossible to differentiate from standard variations related to ridge segmentation (Ito and Lin, 1995). Overall, therefore, this figure points to a decrease in MBA with increasing D. Our MBA for Azores hotspot-TR interaction returns a value of approximately -105 mGal at a ridge-hotspot distance of ~100 km, roughly comparable to the present-day influence of Galapagos and Easter on the Galapagos Spreading Center and East Pacific Rise, respectively. Azores/ TR Waist Width

Appendix A, Figure 12a is adapted from the work of Ito et al. (2003) and is distinguished by a grey area bounded by two curves. The curves on Appendix A, Figure 12a represent a range of plume volume fluxes, Q, and illustrate the predicted relationship between halfspreading rate U, along-axis plume width, and plume flux based on a scaling law given by W=(Q/U)1/2. This equation serves to reveal a scale for the width of the plume material near the ridge axis (Ito et al., 2003). Observations at several prominent hot spot-ridge systems from Appendix A, Figure 12a demonstrate a tendency of the along-axis widths to decrease at greater spreading rates. Based on the figure, the maximum values of W are found along the slow spreading MAR near Iceland whereas values of W decrease with increasing spreading rate to a minimum along the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise/Easter


system. Although the W versus U relationship for the Azores/MAR system falls within the boundaries of the predicted curve, our observed value for the Azores/TR system along-axis width returns a value of ~550 km, visibly out of the predicted relationship. This discrepancy is not due to plume flux, since the Azores hotspot Q is the same for the Azores/MAR and Azores/TR systems. The following paragraphs explore possible mechanisms to explain the disagreement between observed and predicted waist width. Within the general vicinity of the W value for the Azores/TR (Appendix A, Figure 12a) lie comparable numbers for two other hotspots, located in close proximity to a ridge of similar spreading geometry to that of the TR. The Marion and Bouvet hotspots are adjacent to the ultra-slow spreading Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR). Georgen et al. (2001) suggested that Marion and Bouvet waist widths are shorter than expected because long transform offsets along the SWIR curtail and compartmentalize the axial dispersion of plume material (Vogt and Jung, 2004). With the exception of an offset across Sao Miguel (Vogt and Jung, 2004), no transforms appear to be present along the TR. However, the GFZ forms a major boundary on the eastern side of the Azores archipelago, at the end of the TR. It is possible that this boundary is sufficient to prevent eastwarddirected hotspot flow. Vogt and Jung (2004) suggest that sub-axial mantle convective processes, as opposed to the role of surface tectonics, account for the accretionary structure along mid-ocean ridges where there is an absence of major transforms. Segmentation along the ultra slowspreading TR is characterized by wide discontinuity domains with very short accretionary segments, suggesting focused and low-viscosity mantle upwelling, with a limited magma supply (Vogt and Jung 2004). This is similar to the SWIR and Gakkel ridges (Dick et al., 2003), where isolated high-relief volcanic edifices suggest focused melting processes. The axial undulations in MBA along the TR could reflect alternation between regions to which melt is directed, and regions from which melt is directed away. Additionally, the TR axis is interpreted as a continuous segmented line, in which the segments are strongly oblique to the direction of opening (400 -650) (Vogt and Jung, 2004). The obliquity of the TR plays a significant role with regards to melting processes (Beier et al., 2008).


According to Okino et al. (2002), increased obliquity leads to decreasing effective spreading rates, lower upwelling velocities and smaller melt fractions. We propose that the reduced melt fraction along the highly oblique TR is one of the factors that acts to inhibit the along axis dispersion of plume material. Divergence of old oceanic lithosphere led to the generation of the TR about 5 Myr ago (Vogt and Jung, 2004; Georgen, 2008). The relative youth of the slow opening TR allows us to characterize it as an undeveloped rift system, in which only minimal extension has occurred, preserving a cold, thick axial lithospheric lid (Beier et al., 2008). Owing to the slow spreading nature of the TR, steady state conditions in the crust and mantle have likely not been reached (Vogt and Jung, 2004), possibly resulting in an overall slower export of volcanics from the rift zone, acting to minimize the width of the plume material along axis. In summary, a highly oblique, immature ridge system with intricate segmentation geometry, very slow spreading rates and a thick lithosphere along the axis is thought to affect the generation and eruption of melt along the TR. These factors could result in the observed difference in W along the ridge axes between the MAR and the TR. It is important to note that MBA cannot be used to differentiate between thermal and compositional hypotheses related to plume involvement. Influence of Triple Junction Geometry The Galapagos system is a classic example of an off-axis hot spot interacting with a single spreading center (Ito et al., 1997). A gradual shallowing of the Galapagos ridge axis coupled with a simultaneous decrease in MBA along the GSC suggests anomalously thick crust and low density mantle, direct evidence for ridge-plume interactions (Ito et al., 2003). Our results obtained for the Azores show similar geophysical characteristics, but there is a fundamental geological difference between the two settings. Whereas the Galapagos plume is an off-axis hotspot interacting with a single ridge, the Azores plume is a hotspot interacting with a triple junction.


According to Phipps Morgan and Forsyth (1988), the flow fields and thermal patterns along simple ridges are primarily two dimensional in nature (i.e., corner flow). In such scenarios, flow from a near-ridge plume can be directed along the base of the lithosphere to the rifting axis, resulting in anomalous geophysical signatures and capacious magmatic activity (Schilling, 1991), as is the case with the Galapagos ridge-plume interaction. In the case of the Azores, however, the unique geometrical style of three oceanic ridges, each with varying spreading rates and flow fields, is likely to lead to a complex 3D component of mantle plume flow along the ridge axes, with the possibility of the genesis of a spatially extensive oceanic plateau (Georgen, 2008). The presence of longwavelength bathymetric and gravity anomalies extending several hundred kilometers away from the Azores hot spot along the MAR axis, as well as the strong component of predicted along-axis flow directed away from the triple junction along the TR (Georgen, 2008), suggest the possibility that the 3D flow disperses the Azores hotspot material over a larger upper mantle region than if the hotspot interacted with a single ridge. Therefore, plume flux inferred by accounting for Azores W along the NMAR, SMAR, and TR may over-predict actual plume flux. Additionally, Beier et al. (2008) found that degrees of melting increase further eastward with distance away from the ATJ. Our results, though, point to an increase in the amplitude of the MBA towards the triple junction. This suggests an apparent paradox as increased degrees of melting are sometimes associated with large negative MBA signatures. One possible explanation for this contrast is the presence of a compositional plume anomaly coupled with plate boundary effects toward the triple junction.


Our synthesis of along-axis variations in topography and gravity anomalies reflects the dynamics of mantle flow around the ATJ as well as the influence of the Azores hotspot on the geodynamic processes of three nearby spreading centers, allowing us to draw the following conclusions from this investigation: 1) The Azores hotspot, approximately 150 km southeast of the triple junction, imparts a high-amplitude (~ -100 mGal) expansive mantle Bouguer gravity anomaly low to the Terceira Rift, implying low density mantle and considerable crustal thickening towards the triple junction. Low MBA values coupled with Vshaped bathymetric features along the slow-spreading southern MAR correspond to a southward propagation of a large magmatic anomaly originating at the plume source, indicative of an increase in crustal accretion toward the Azores hotspot. MBA analysis along the NMAR suggests a relatively thinner crust emplaced by lower magmatic output. 2) The strong predicted along-axis flow directed away from the triple junction along the TR, together with long-wavelength anomalies over several hundred kilometers away from the Azores hot spot along the MAR and TR axes, suggests three dimensional ridge interaction with a hot and/or compositionally distinct mantle plume. 3) Along-axis dispersion of plume material along the TR (~550 km) is minimized by the rift systems obliqueness, youthful nature and hyper-slow spreading rate. Wide discontinuity domains, characteristic of ultra-slow spreading centers, act as thermal and mechanical barriers to along-axis plume transport, thereby decreasing plume waist width along the TR. We postulate that the presence of the Gloria Fracture zone also acts to inhibit the eastward flow of plume material along the TR.



Figure 1: Predicted bathymetry map of the Azores region, showing the general setting of the study area. The Azores triple junction is located in the Central Mid-Atlantic, formed at the intersection of the North-American, Eurasian and African plates. Red dot indicates the postulated location of the Azores plume.


Figure 2: Location map based on free-air gravity data for the Azores triple junction. The position of the hotspot in reference to the triple junction is indicated with a star. Free-air gravity data were extracted from the global satellite altimetry database of Smith and Sandwell (1997). Ridge abbreviations are: N.MAR = Northern branch of the MidAtlantic with respect to the Azores Triple Junction, S.MAR = Southern branch of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge with respect to the Azores Triple Junction, Ter.R = Terceira Rift (from Georgen and Lin, 2002).


Figure 3: Tectonic ridge geometry of the Azores triple junction region, reflecting the trend of each of the spreading branches associated with the junction. U1 represents the half-spreading rate for the northern branch of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, designated as R1 due to its fastest rate of divergence. U2 represents the half spreading rate for the SMAR designated as R2. U3 represents the half spreading rate for the Terceira Rift, designated as R3. Ridge configuration for the Azores Triple Junction indicates the two fastest spreading branches (R1 and R2) are virtually collinear. The slowest spreading branch, R3, intersects the other two branches almost perpendicularly. Arrows indicate relative plate motion with respect to the triple junction (from Georgen and Lin, 2002).


V-shaped ridge

V-shaped ridge

Figure 4: Existing position of the Azores triple junction (solid black circle) arrow south of the Terceira Rift indicates the plate motion direction of the African and Eurasian plates with respect to the hotspot reference frame. The map also shows the position of all nine islands along the Azores archipelago, with Flores and Corvo to the west of the triple junction, and Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge (SJ), Pico, Faial, Sao Miguel, and Santa Maria to the east of the triple junction. Dashed line indicates the uncertain location of the African-Eurasian plate boundary near the MAR. The names of prominent fracture zones are also labeled. Along the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the North Azores fracture zone. South of the triple junction are the Acor fracture zone, Princess Alice fracture zone and Pico fracture zone. South of the Terceira Rift is the East Azores fracture zone. COV2, CDRO, PSJO, PSCM, CMLA and PSMA are broadband seismic stations on the Azores islands used to record tele-seismic body waves for calculation of P-wave velocity. Map modified from Yang et al. 2006.


Figure 5: Isotope systematics of the Terceira Rift lavas. Lines show linear arrays of the islands along the TR. Arrows indicate the trend toward Sao Miguel lavas (Beier et al., 2007).White circles represent Pb spike analyses. Dashed circles indicate possible mantle source end-members for each mixing array. Samples taken from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge are indicated by MAR (Dosso et al.1999) (from Beier et al, 2008).


Figure 6: (a) Averages of crustal thickness and Na8 at various mid-ocean ridges (Langmuir et al., 1992). Dashed curve shows predictions of the melting model of Klein and Langmuir (1987), and dotted curve is the prediction of McKenzie and Bickle (1988). (b) Negative correlation between regional averages of Na8,0.1 and Fe8,0.1 (Shen and Forsyth, 1995). To correct for source compositional effects, Shen and Forsyth (1995) use correlations between Na8 and Fe8 and K2O/TiO2 in order to estimate the Na8 and Fe8 content. These compositions are Na8,0.1 and Fe8,0.1. (Figure from Ito et al., 2003)


Figure 7: Bathymetry map for the Azores Triple Junction, showing the southward propagation of V-shaped ridges. Ridge abbreviations are as follows: N.MAR = Northern branch of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, S.MAR =Southern branch of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and TER.R. = Terceira Rift. Filled white star indicates the postulated location of the Azores hotspot. Thin lines indicate shiptrack coverage of the bathymetry data. Orange lines on either side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge represent isochrons during different stages of evolutionary rifting. Grid spacing is 2and contour interval is 1000 m.


Figure 8: Free-air anomaly map for the Azores region. The free-air gravity map contains signals from seafloor topography, sediments, and crust and mantle density anomalies. The free-air anomaly is dominated by short wavelength variations which reflect the density contrast at the seafloor. Gravity data are plotted at 2 spacing and the contour interval is 200 mGal. The position of the Azores hotspot is marked by a solid white star.


Figure 9: Map of Mantle Bouguer anomaly correction, generated from bathymetry data. MBA correction was calculated using the method of Kuo and Forsyth (1988). The crust was assumed to have constant thickness of 5 km that follows the seafloor relief. The assumed density of the crustal layer is 2,800 kg/m, and that of the underlying mantle is 3,300 kg/m. Contour interval is 200 mGal. The position of the Azores hotspot is marked by a solid white star.


Figure 10: Map of MBA calculated by subtracting the mantle Bouguer correction from the FAA, assuming a constant thickness, 5 km reference crust. Grid spacing is 5 and contour interval is 50 mGal. Postulated position of the Azores hotspot is marked by a solid white star. Red areas correspond to shallow regions with prominent negative gravity lows and may result from the combined effects of thicker crust, lower density mantle, and/or higher temperature mantle than the surrounding regions.


Figure 11: (a) Top panel shows axial bathymetry profile along the Terceira Rift, with increasing distance from the Azores Triple Junction. (b) Bottom panel shows filtered MBA profile along the same region of the Terceira Rift axis, with increasing distance from the Azores Triple Junction. W indicates the total along axis width of plume material along the Terceira Rift. The amplitude of mantle Bouguer anomaly, MBA, denotes its total along-axis variation. Note that the majority of localized MBA lows correlate to bathymetric highs. The long-wavelength trend in the MBA with a minimum at ~250 km, reflects enhanced crustal thickness and/or lower mantle density, possibly caused by rapid upwelling over the plume source (from Georgen and Sankar, 2008).


Figure 12: (a) Top panel shows along-isochron widths (W) of residual bathymetric anomalies, versus half-spreading rates U. Two curves show predictions of scaling laws for a range of plume volume fluxes, Q (from Ito and Lin, 1995). The observed value for the along-axis width of the Azores/TR system, represented by a yellow star bordered by an orange outline, falls visibly out of the predicted relationship. (b) Bottom panel shows along-isochron amplitudes of MBA plotted against ridge-hotspot distances (from Ito and Lin, 1995). MBA for the Azores hotspot-TR interaction, represented by a yellow star bordered by an orange outline, returns a value of approximately -105 mGal at a ridge-hotspot distance of ~100 km.


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Ravi Darwin Sankar was born in San Fernando, Trinidad on the 15th of April, 1981. He attended the San Fernando T.M.L primary school, San Fernando Government Secondary and San Fernando Senior Secondary high schools and completed his Advanced-level education in April of 2000 from the Marabella Senior Comprehensive School. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Environmental Physics (First Class Honors) from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad in the spring of 2005. He went on to Master of Science studies in Petroleum Engineering at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, for one year before being awarded an international FULBRIGHT Faculty Development Scholarship (2006) from the U.S Department of State to pursue graduate studies in the United States. He enrolled at Florida State University in the spring of 2007 where he studied marine geology and geophysics under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Georgen. He completed his Master's degree in the spring of 2009.