The Knipovich Ridge (73°30′–78°40′N) is an extreme end-member of the mid-ocean ridge spreading system, both in terms of spreading rate (<1.5 cm/yr) and angle between the ridge and the spreading direction (40°–53°). Structural analysis of side-scan sonar images obtained along 400 km of the ridge axis reveals systematic relationships between fault population parameters, obliquity, and axial segmentation along the ridge.
Fault population characteristics conform to observational and experimental analyses of oblique rifting and spreading systems. For the ridge as a whole, faults in the axial region are short, straight, isolated (not linked into complex fault zones), and exhibit length-scaling relationships characteristic of young and active fault systems. Faults are generally oblique to both the ridge axis and the spreading direction, and orientations vary systematically with angle between ridge and spreading direction.
Along-axis analysis reveals the influence of axial segmentation on fault population characteristics. Segment centers are dominated by faults perpendicular and sub-perpendicular to plate motion with longer characteristic length and generally lower fracture density. Conversely, segment ends are dominated by faults striking oblique to plate motion with shorter characteristic length and generally higher fracture density. We infer that faulting in segment centers is strongly influenced by the mechanical effects of dike intrusion perpendicular to plate motion, while faulting in segment ends is controlled by the mechanics of oblique rifting, non-transform discontinuities, and/or accommodation zones. The contrasts between these distinct structural and mechanical settings along the ridge axis are accentuated by the high obliquity and ultra-slow spreading rate of this spreading system.