National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2000

Recent tectonics of the Blanco Ridge, Eastern Blanco Transform Fault Zone

Dziak, R.P., C.G. Fox, R.W. Embley, J.L. Nabelek, J. Braunmiller, and R.A. Koski

Mar. Geophys. Res., 21(5), 423–450, doi: 10.1023/A:1026545910893 (2000)

Bathymetric, hydro-acoustic, seismic, submersible, and gravity data are used to investigate the active tectonics of the eastern Blanco Transform Fault Zone (BTFZ). The eastern BTFZ is dominated by the ~150 km long transform-parallel Blanco Ridge (BR) which is a right-lateral strike-slip fault bordered to the east and west by the Gorda and Cascadia Depressions. Acoustic locations, fault-parameter information, and slip vector estimates of 43 earthquakes (Mw33.8) that occurred along the eastern BTFZ over the last 5 years reveal that the Blanco Ridge is a high-angle right-lateral strike-slip fault, with a small component of dip-slip motion, where the Juan de Fuca plate is the hanging wall relative to the Pacific plate. Furthermore, the Cascadia and Gorda basins are undergoing normal faulting with extension predominantly oblique to the transform trend. Seafloor submersible observations agree with previous hypotheses that the active transform fault trace is the elongate basin that runs the length of the BR summit. Brecciated and undeformed basalt, diabase, and gabbro samples were collected at the four submersible survey sites along the Blanco Ridge. These petrologic samples indicate the Blanco Ridge is composed of an ocean crustal sequence that has been uplifted and highly fractured. The petrologic samples also appear to show an increase in elevation of the crustal section from east to west along the Blanco Ridge, with gabbros exposed at a shallower depth farther west along the southern (Pacific plate side) BR ridge flank. Further supporting evidence for BR uplift exists in the seismic reflection profiles across the BR showing uplift of turbidite sequences along the north and south ridge base, and gravity and magnetics profiles that indicate possible basement uplift and a low-density zone centered on the ridge's Pacific plate side. The BR formation mechanism preferred here is first, uplift achieved partially through strike-slip motion (with a small dip-slip component). Second, seawater penetration along the fault into the lower crust upper mantle, which then enhanced formation and intrusion of a mantle-derived serpentinized-peridotite diapir into the shallow ocean crust, causing further uplift along the fault.

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