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Variations in crustal structure in the region of the Galapagos triple junction
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  • Tingting Zheng,
  • Jian Lin,
  • Hans Schouten,
  • Deborah Smith,
  • Ross Parnell-Turner,
  • Brian Tucholke,
  • Johnson Cann,
  • Emily Klein
Tingting Zheng
Tongji Unversity

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jian Lin
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Hans Schouten
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Deborah Smith
National Science Foundation
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Ross Parnell-Turner
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Brian Tucholke
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Johnson Cann
University of Leeds
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Emily Klein
Duke University
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This study uses gravity data to investigate crustal structure in the region of the Galapagos triple junction where the westward propagating Cocos-Nazca rift (CNR) approaches the East Pacific Rise (EPR) and forms the northern boundary of the Galapagos micro plate. Shipboard and global gravity data are analyzed from 104˚W to 96˚W and 0˚ to 4˚N. In May 2018, the high-resolution gravity data were collected along ship tracks that run across the entire width of the Galapagos gore from the tip of the CNR at ~101.7˚W to 98.5˚W. Residual mantle Bouguer anomaly (RMBA) was calculated by removing the effects of water-crust, crust-mantle, and lithospheric cooling from the free-air anomaly (FAA). We also calculated a model of gravity-derived crustal thickness by downward continuation of the RMBA, as well as a model of non-isostatic topography by removing the topographic effects of thermal subsidence and crustal thickness variations. The results reveal several distinctive features in gravity and crustal structure: (1) The eastern flank of the EPR has systematic shallower topography and more negative RMBA than the conjugate western flank, reflecting regional density variations. (2) On the eastern flank of the EPR, the region south of the Galapagos gore is associated with more negative RMBA than the conjugate region to the north, possibly reflecting closer proximity to the Galapagos hotspot in the southern region. (3) The first ~100 km behind the propagating CNR tip (~101.7˚W to 100.8˚W) is associated with more positive RMBA (up to ~35 mGal) than the CNR rift between ~100.8˚W and 98.5˚W, suggesting locally thinner crust (up to ~1.5 – 2 km). East of 98.5˚W along the CNR, RMBA decreases gradually towards the Galapagos hotspot. (4) A region of local high topography on the southern boundary of the Galapagos microplate, where fresh basalts were sampled, is associated with negative RMBA centered at ~101.6˚W and 1.3˚N, indicating local relatively thick crust. (5) Within our study area, the CNR crust shows shallower average off-axis topography and more negative average RMBA than the EPR crust of corresponding age, which is consistent with a model of isostatic compensation of average thicker CNR crust than the surrounding EPR crust, possibly reflecting Galapagos hotspot effects.