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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof Roger Clive Searle

Yeo, Isobel , Searle, Roger C. , Achenbach, Kay L., Le Bas, Tim P. & Murton, Bramley J. (2012). Eruptive hummocks building blocks of the upper ocean crust. Geology 40(1): 91-94.

Author(s) from Durham


The spreading axis at many slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges is marked by an axial volcanic ridge. In this study, we use a combination of high-resolution remote sensing methods to elucidate the detailed nature of volcanoes in such a ridge. We find that the “hummocks” described in previous sidescan sonar studies are dome- or cone-shaped edifices, 5–150 m high with diameters of 30–330 m. We estimate they form quickly, in single eruptions, each of which may produce several hummocks. Hummock collapse is common and hummocks of all heights are prone to failure. Collapses generally occur down the regional seafloor slope, suggesting control by local topography. Approximately 33% of hummocks lose ∼40% of their volume by collapse, so ∼12% of all material erupted on the axial volcanic ridge is rapidly converted to talus. The higher porosity of these deposits may increase average upper crustal porosity by several percent, contributing >0.5 km s−1 to seismic velocity decrease in the upper oceanic crust, and may be one of the dominant mechanisms for increasing porosity in upper slow-spreading oceanic crust.