The global fracture zone and magnetic lineation data base project

Project Summary
Plate kinematic models derive from the detailed identifications of conjugate magnetic isochron picks and fracture zones (FZ). These data form the foundation of all relative marine plate tectonic reconstructions and codify our understanding of Earth’s surface evolution since the Mesozoic. Furthermore, FZ traces have extensive uses in many other marine geophysical investigations such as studying the origins of transform fault offsets, identifying seamounts and isolating abyssal hill roughness within fracture zone provinces, examining predictions from competing thermal models of the lithosphere, and much more. Kinematic models also require temporal information and this dimension is provided by identification of key magnetic isochron boundaries from total field magnetic anomalies collected along ship tracks. The joint FZ and isochron pick data constitute the fundamental constraints on marine relative plate motion models. This two-year pilot project to establish new infrastructure for users of FZ and magnetic isochron data:

  • We will develop an open source, community-driven database where consistent and well documented information on FZ and magnetic isochrons will be collected, accessible from a dedicated website designed and operated in a manner similar to Wikipedia.
  • For fracture zones, we will store mostly meta-data about each FZ and a few key locations along its trace. A semi-automatic FZ tracker will derive the optimal traces from the most recent data grids, guided by the supplied metadata and crossing ship-track profiles.
  • For magnetic isochron picks, we will impose a common way of reporting this information and collect already published picks for the initiation of the database. Further additions will be coordinated so that the global database can serve as an evolving resource for the plate tectonic community.

Funding Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF), USA 2008-2010

Project Participants
Prof Paul Wessel
Prof Dietmar Muller

Related Projects
Virtual Geological Observatory
Gondwanaland Evolution