Evidence of left-lateral active motion at the North America-Caribbean plate boundary
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
The North America-Caribbean plate boundary is one of the least-known among large plate boundaries. Although it was identified early on as an example of a strike-slip fault in the north of Hispaniola, its structure and rate of motion remains poorly constrained. We present the first direct evidence for active sinistral strike-slip motion along this fault, based on swath seafloor mapping of the northern Haiti area. There is evidence for ~16.5 km of apparent strike-slip motion along the mapped segment of the Septentrional fault zone off Cap Haitien town which is terminated to the east onland Dominican republic and in the west to southern Cuban margin. By evaluating these new constraints within the context of geodetic models of global plate motions, we estimate an activity of the fault since 2 Ma with an angular velocity for the Caribbean plate relative to the North America predicted 6–12 mmyr−1 sinistral motion along the Septentrional fault zone. This transform fault was initiated around 20 million years ago in its western segment and since 2 Ma in its eastern segment in response to a regional reorganization of plate velocities and directions, which induced a change in configuration of plate boundaries.