WHY MID-OCEAN RIDGES?
Mid-ocean ridge research is at the forefront of systems-oriented studies in the earth sciences. Mid-ocean ridges are the primary sites for transferring energy and material from the Earth’s interior to its surface. The global heat budget is dominated by the formation, cooling, and eventual subduction of oceanic lithosphere. The bulk of the planet’s magmatic budget is accounted for by the generation of 20 cubic kilometers of new oceanic crust per year. Hydrothermal circulation that accompanies magmatism facilitates chemical exchange between the solid earth and the ocean and plays a pivotal role in supporting the unique biological communities that congregate along ridge axes. To understand the dynamics of mid-ocean ridges and the system as a whole we need to investigate interacting processes, such as magmatic, tectonic, and hydrothermal activity, over a range of spatial and temporal dimensions.