Articles

Spreading of the Ocean Floor: New Evidence

Science  16 Dec 1966:
Vol. 154, Issue 3755, pp. 1405-1415
DOI: 10.1126/science.154.3755.1405

Abstract

It is suggested that the entire history of the ocean basins, in terms of oceanfloor spreading,is contained frozen in the oceanic crust. Variations in the intensity and polarity of Earth's magnetic field are considered to be recorded in the remanent magnetism of the igneous rocks as they solidified and cooled through the Curie temperature at the crest of an oceanic ridge, and subsequently spread away from it at a steady rate. The hypothesis is supported by the extreme linearity and continuity of oceanic magnetic anomalies and their symmetry about the axes of ridges.

If the proposed reversal time scale for the last 4 million years is combined with the model, computed anomaly profiles show remarkably good agreement with those observed, and one can deduce rates of spreading for all active parts of the midoceanic ridge system for which magnetic profilesor surveys are available. The rates obtained are in exact agreement with those needed to account for continental drift.

An exceptionally high rate of spreading (approximately 4.5 cm/year) in the South Pacific enables one to deduce by extrapolation considerable details of the reversal time scale back to 11.5 million years ago. Again, this scale can be applied to other parts of the ridge system. Thus one isled to the suggestion that the crest of the East Pacific Rise in the northeast Pacific has been overridden and modified by the westward drift of North America, with the production of the anomalous width and unique features of the American cordillera in the western United States. The oceanicmagnetic anomalies also indicate that there was a change in derection of crustal spreading in this region during Pliocene time from eastwest to southeast-northwest.

A profile from the crest to the boundary of the East Pacific Rise, and the difference between axial-zone and flank anomalies over ridges, suggest increase in the frequency of reversal of Earth's magnetic field, together, possibly, with decrease in its intensity, approximately 25 million years ago.

Within the framework of ocean-floor spreading, it is suggested that magnetic anomaliesmay indicate the nature of oceanic fracture zones and distinguish the parts of the ridge system that are actively spreading. Thus data derived during the past year lend remarkable support to thehypothesis that magnetic anomalies may reveal the history of the ocean basins.

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