National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

A sea-floor spreading event captured by seismometers

Tolstoy, M., J.P. Cowen, E.T. Baker, D.J. Fornari, K.H. Rubin, T.M. Shank, F. Waldhauser, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, D.W. Forsyth, R.C. Holmes, B. Love, M.R. Perfit, R.T. Weekly, S.A. Soule, B. Glazer, Science Party RV New Horizon, and Science Party RV Knorr

Science, 314(5807), 1920–1922, doi: 10.1126/science.1133950 (2006)

Two-thirds of Earth's surface is formed at mid-ocean ridges, yet sea-floor spreading events are poorly understood because they occur far beneath the ocean surface. At 9°50'N on the East Pacific Rise, ocean-bottom seismometers recently recorded the microearthquake character of a mid-ocean ridge eruption, including precursory activity. A gradual ramp-up in activity rates since seismic monitoring began at this site in October 2003 suggests that eruptions may be forecast in the fastspreading environment. The pattern culminates in an intense but brief (~6-hour) inferred diking event on 22 January 2006, followed by rapid tapering to markedly decreased levels of seismicity.

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