Characterizing the Caribbean–South American plate boundary at 64°W using wide-angle seismic data

TitleCharacterizing the Caribbean–South American plate boundary at 64°W using wide-angle seismic data
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsClark, SA, Zelt, CA, Magnani, MB, Levander, A
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
KeywordsEl Pilar, velocity modeling, Venezuela margin

We present wide-angle velocity modeling results from profile 64°W of the Broadband Ocean-Land Investigation of Venezuela and the Antilles arc Region (BOLIVAR) project. Line 64W is a 460-km-long, approximately north-south, onshore-offshore reflection/refraction transect located approximately at 64°W longitude. The profile extends across the transform plate boundary between the southeastern Caribbean (CAR) and South American (SA) plates. East of the profile the plate boundary bends to the north, and SA subducts beneath CAR. We utilize first-arrival tomography to resolve a smooth velocity field for the sediments and upper/middle crust and then use a layered approach to resolve a sharp velocity contrast for the Moho, simultaneously inverting refracted Pn and reflected PmP arrivals. We image crustal and upper mantle structure across the plate boundary zone. We interpret that the strike-slip system that accommodates relative motion between CAR and SA extends near vertically through the entire crust and offsets the Moho. We see no evidence supporting a major component of convergence, and rather than a wide boundary zone of overlapping lithospheric plates, we interpret the plate boundary to be confined to the 33-km-wide, near-vertical strike-slip system. Previously interpreted thrust faults flanking the strike-slip system appear to be confined to the upper/middle crust and may be related to the detachment of subducting South American lithosphere at the southern terminus of the Lesser Antilles subduction zone east of 64°W.


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