Present-day Block Motions and Strain Accumulation on Active Faults in the Caribbean

Monday, 15 December 2014
Steeve J Symithe, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States, Eric Calais, Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris, Paris, France and Andrew Mark Freed, Purdue Univ, West Lafayette, IN, United States
The quasi-frontal subduction of the north and south American plates under the Lesser Antilles and the left and right lateral strike-slip along the northern and southern margins of the Caribbean plate offer the opportunity to study the transition from subduction to strike-slip between major plates. In addition, the segmentation and degree of interplate coupling at the Lesser Antilles subduction is key to our understanding of the earthquake potential of a subduction whose length is similar to the rupture area of the Mw9.0, 2011, Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

We used the block modeling approach described in Meade and Loveless (2009) to test the optimal block geometry for the northern, eastern and southern boundaries of the Caribbean plate. We solved for angular velocities for each block/plate and strain accumulation rates for all major faults in the region. Then we calculated the variations in interplate coupling along the subduction plate boundaries using the accumulated strain rates.

We tested 11 different block geometries; they are all based on geological evidences unless they are suggested by discrepancies within the GPS and seismological data or by previously published results. We confirm the existence of the micro Gonave plate. The boundary between the Micro-Gonave plate and the Hispaniola crustal block is better suited along the Haitian-Thrust-Belt instead of the Neiba-Matheux fault. The interseismic GPS velocities do not show evidence for a distinct North Lesser Antilles block. We found a totally uncoupled section of the subduction starting from the Puerto-Rico trench to the end of the Lesser Antilles section. All the relative motion of the Caribbean block is lost aseismically along the boundary of that portion of the subduction. While we found strong coupling along the northern Hispaniola section, most of the deformation on this region is being accumulated along intrablock faults with very low strain (~2mm/yr) along the intraplate subduction interface. We also performed several tests resolutions to assess the ability of the existing GPS data and the associated uncertainties to adequately resolved different aspects of the strain accumulation along the subduction. We found reasonable lateral resolution and very poor vertical resolution.