Kinematics of the Southwestern Caribbean from New Geodetic Observations

Monday, 15 December 2014
Gorki Ruiz1,2, Peter C La Femina1, Arkin Tapia3, Eduardo Camacho3, Eric Chichaco3, Hector Mora-Paez4 and Halldor Geirsson1, (1)Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States, (2)Universidad Central del Ecuador, FIGEMPA, Quito, Ecuador, (3)Universidad de Panama, Instituto de Geociencias, Panama, Panama, (4)INGEOMINAS, Bogota, Colombia
The interaction of the Caribbean, Cocos, Nazca, and South American plates has resulted in a complex plate boundary zone and the formation of second order tectonic blocks (e.g., the North Andean, Choco and Central America Fore Arc blocks). The Panama Region [PR], which is bounded by these plates and blocks, has been interpreted and modeled as a single tectonic block or deformed plate boundary. Previous research has defined the main boundaries: 1) The Caribbean plate subducts beneath the isthmus along the North Panama Deformed Belt, 2) The Nazca plate converges at very high obliquity with the PR and motion is assumed along a left lateral transform fault and the South Panama Deformed Belt, 3) The collision of PR with NW South America (i.e., the N. Andean and Choco blocks) has resulted in the Eastern Panama Deformed Belt, and 4) collision of the Cocos Ridge in the west is accommodated by crustal shortening, Central American Fore Arc translation and deformation across the Central Costa Rican Deformed Belt. In addition, there are several models that suggest internal deformation of this region by cross-isthmus strike-slip faults. Recent GPS observations for the PR indicates movement to the northeast relative to a stable Caribbean plate at rates of 6.9±4.0 - 7.8±4.8 mm a-1 from southern Costa Rica to eastern Panama, respectively (Kobayashi et al., 2014 and references therein). However, the GPS network did not have enough spatial density to estimate elastic strain accumulation across these faults. Recent installation and expansion of geodetic networks in southwestern Caribbean (i.e., Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia) combined with geological and geophysical observations provide a new input to investigate crustal deformation processes in this complex tectonic setting, specifically related to the PR. We use new and existing GPS data to calculate a new velocity field for the region and to investigate the kinematics of the PR, including elastic strain accumulation on the major plate boundaries. Expanding our GPS observations within these proposed small blocks could allow us to solve for Euler vectors and calculate their rotation, strain accumulation and slip rates on the major fault systems. Our results combined with the local seismicity could help authorities to reduce uncertainties in seismic risk evaluations.