Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

7-26-2008

Abstract

Ultrahigh-resolution bathymetric maps (25 cm grid) are used to quantify the physical dimensions of and spatial relationships between tectonic, volcanic, and hydrothermal features at six hydrothermal vent fields in the Lau back-arc basin. Supplemented with near-bottom photos, and nested within regional DSL-120A side-scan sonar data, these maps provide insight into the nature of hydrothermal systems along the Eastern Lau Spreading Center (ELSC) and Valu Fa Ridge (VFR). Along-axis transitions evident in localized volcanic morphology and tectonic characteristics include a change from broad low-relief volcanic domes (hundreds of meters wide,tall) that are dominated by pillow and lobate lava morphologies and are cut by faults and fissures to higher aspect ratio volcanic domes (tens of meters wide, tens of meters tall) dominated by aa-type lava morphologies, with finger-like flows, and few tectonic structures. These along-axis differences in localized seafloor morphology suggest differences in hydrothermal circulation pathways within the shallow crust and correlate with regional transitions in a variety of ridge properties, including the large-scale morphology of the ridge axis (shallow axial valley to axial high), seafloor lava compositions, and seismic properties of the upper crust. Differences in morphologic characteristics of individual flows and lava types were also quantified, providing an important first step toward the remote characterization of complex terrains associated with hydrothermal vent fields.

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