Lower oceanic crust formed by in situ melt crystallization revealed by seismic layering

Peng Guo, Satish C. Singh, Venkata A. Vaddineni, Ingo Grevemeyer, Erdinc Saygin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Oceanic crust forms at mid-ocean spreading centres through a combination of magmatic and tectonic processes, with the magmatic processes creating two distinct layers: the upper and the lower crust. While the upper crust is known to form from lava flows and basaltic dykes based on geophysical and drilling results, the formation of the gabbroic lower crust is still debated. Here we perform a full waveform inversion of wide-angle seismic data from relatively young (7–12-Myr-old) crust formed at the slow-spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The seismic velocity model reveals alternating, 400–500 m thick, high- and low-velocity layers with ±200 m s−1 velocity variations, below ~2 km from the oceanic basement. The uppermost low-velocity layer is consistent with hydrothermal alteration, defining the base of extensive hydrothermal circulation near the ridge axis. The underlying layering supports that the lower crust is formed through the intrusion of melt as sills at different depths, which cool and crystallize in situ. The layering extends up to 5–15 km distance along the seismic profile, covering 300,000–800,000 years, suggesting that this form of lower crustal accretion is a stable process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-596
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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