GSFML Background

Plate kinematic models derive from the detailed identifications of conjugate magnetic isochron picks and fracture zones (FZ). These data form the foundation of relative marine plate tectonic reconstructions and codify our understanding of Earth's surface evolution since the Mesozoic. Furthermore, FZ traces have extensive uses in other 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. Much work has been performed in trying to determine globally consistent data sets of FZ and isochrons. Unfortunately, advances in data collection and processing tend to make specific "snap-shot" compilations obsolete, thus necessitating a new analysis following the addition of new data. A complete re-analysis can be a daunting task when a global reconstruction is one of the design goals. Effectively, such high barriers to undertaking exploratory research limit the progress that can be made in many fields of marine science and deprive us of serendipitous and curiosity-driven investigations which have proven so valuable throughout the history of plate tectonics.

We seek to establish new infrastructure for users of FZ and magnetic isochron data. We are developing 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. For fracture zones, we store mostly meta-data about each FZ and a few key locations along its trace. A semi-automatic FZ tracker program will derive the optimal traces from the most recent VGG grids, guided by the supplied metadata. For magnetic isochron picks, we have collected 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. Once established, trusted expert users will be allowed to add or revise information in the database, and all information stored will be under version control, allowing the history of the database to be reconstructed. In the interim, we will assist in the entry of new FZ and magnetic anomaly pick data as well as provide all data in three popular file formats.