Journal Article

Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador

A. Franco, C. Lasserre, H. Lyon-Caen, V. Kostoglodov, E. Molina, M. Guzman-Speziale, D. Monterosso, V. Robles, C. Figueroa, W. Amaya, E. Barrier, L. Chiquin, S. Moran, O. Flores, J. Romero, J. A. Santiago, M. Manea and V. C. Manea

in Geophysical Journal International

Volume 189, issue 3, pages 1223-1236
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0956-540X
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-246X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador

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New GPS measurements in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador are used to constrain the fault kinematics in the North America (NA), Caribbean (CA) and Cocos (CO) plates triple junction area. The regional GPS velocity field is first analysed in terms of strain partitioning across the major volcano-tectonic structures, using elastic half-space modelling, then inverted through a block model. We show the dominant role of the Motagua Fault with respect to the Polochic Fault in the accommodation of the present-day deformation associated with the NA and CA relative motion. The NA/CA motion decreases from 18–22 mmyr-’1 in eastern Guatemala to 14–20 mmyr-’1 in central Guatemala (assuming a uniform locking depth of 14–28 km), down to a few millimetres per year in western Guatemala. As a consequence, the western tip of the CA Plate deforms internally, with ≃9 mmyr-’1 of east–west extension (≃5 mmyr-’1 across the Guatemala city graben alone). Up to 15 mmyr-’1 of dextral motion can be accommodated across the volcanic arc in El Salvador and southeastern Guatemala. The arc seems to mark the northern boundary of an independent forearc sliver (AR), pinned to the NA plate. The inversion of the velocity field shows that a four-block (NA, CA, CO and AR) model, that combines relative block rotations with elastic deformation at the block boundaries, can account for most of the GPS observations and constrain the overall kinematics of the active structures. This regional modelling also evidences lateral variations of coupling at the CO subduction interface, with a fairly high-coupling (≃0.6) offshore Chiapas and low-coupling (≃0.25) offshore Guatemala and El Salvador.

Keywords: Satellite geodesy; Seismic cycle, Plate motions, Subduction zone processes; Dynamics and mechanics of faulting; Kinematics of crustal and mantle deformation

Journal Article.  7774 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geophysics

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