National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1990

A seafloor and sea surface gravity survey of Axial Volcano

Hildebrand, J.A., J.M. Stevenson, P.T.C. Hammer, M.A. Zumberge, R.L. Parker, C.G. Fox, and P.J. Meis

J. Geophys. Res., 95(B8), 12,751–12,763, doi: 10.1029/JB095iB08p12751 (1990)

Seafloor and sea surface gravity measurements are used to model the internal density structure of Axial Volcano. Seafloor measurements made at 53 sites within and adjacent to the Axial Volcano summit caldera provide constraints on the fine-scale density structure. Shipboard gravity measurements made along 540 km of track line above Axial Volcano and adjacent portions of the Juan de Fuca ridge provide constraints on the density over a broader region and on the isostatic compensation. The seafloor gravity anomalies give an average density of 2.7 g cm−3 for the uppermost portion of Axial Volcano. The sea surface gravity anomalies yield a local compensation parameter of 23%, significantly less than expected for a volcanic edifice built on zero age lithosphere. Three-dimensional ideal body models of the seafloor gravity measurements suggest that low-density material, with a density contrast of at least 0.15 g cm−3, may be located underneath the summit caldera. The data are consistent with low-density material at shallow depths near the southern portion of the caldera, dipping downward to the north. The correlation of shallow low-density material and surface expressions of recent volcanic activity (fresh lavas and high-temperature hydrothermal venting) suggests a zone of highly porous crust. Seminorm minimization modeling of the surface gravity measurements also suggest a low-density region under the central portion of Axial Volcano. The presence of low-density material beneath Axial caldera suggests a partially molten magma chamber at depth.

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