Modeling the Thermal-Mechanical Behavior of Mid-Ocean Ridge Transform Faults

E. Roland[1], M. Behn[2], and G. Hirth[3]
[1]MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Woods Hole, MA, USA
[2]Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA
[3]Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Published in 2008

To investigate the thermal-mechanical behavior of oceanic transform faults, we calculate 3-D steady-state incompressible mantle flow and heat transport using COMSOL Multiphysics. Our model incorporates a nonlinear viscous rheology with a visco-plastic approximation to simulate lithospheric brittle failure. We incorporate the effects of hydrothermal circulation and hanges in frictional behavior due to mantle alteration.

By examining a rage of parameters, including the slip rate along the fault and the efficiency of hydrothermal circulation, we characterize the thermal structure and stress state surrounding transform faults. These results provide new constraints on the size of seismogenic zone at oceanic transform faults and the degree of hydration of the oceanic upper mantle.