Ridge Transform Fault Spreading Pattern in Freezing Wax

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  20 Oct 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4058, pp. 301-304
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4058.301


A laboratory experiment shows that ridge-ridge transform faults, inactive fracture zones, and other features characteristic of spreading oceanic ridges can be produced in a variety of paraffins. Although the resultant pattern depends upon the temperature of the wax and the ratio of spreading rate to surface cooling, the characteristic orthogonal ridge transform fault system is a preferred mode of separation. Symmetric spreading occurs under conditions of no tensile strength across the ridge, and the stability of transform faults is a consequence of their lack of shear strength. The experiment also shows that properties characteristic of oceanic ridges occur under conditions of passive convection where upwelling of material at the ridge crest is a result only of hydrostatic forces in the fluid; that is, the plate separation is caused not by large convective forces beneath the ridge but rather by tensile forces in the plate.