Upper-Plate Seismicity Remotely Triggered by the 2012 Mw-7.6 Nicoya Earthquake, Costa Rica

Monday, 15 December 2014
Lepolt Linkimer1, Ivonne G Arroyo2, Walter K Montero Pohly1 and Oscar H. Lücke1, (1)University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica, (2)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Remotely triggered seismicity that takes place at distances greater than 1–2 fault lengths appears to be a frequent phenomenon after large earthquakes, including examples in Costa Rica after the large (Mw > 7.0) inter-plate earthquakes in 1941, 1950, 1983, 1990, and 1991. On September 5, 2012, an inter-plate 7.6-Mw earthquake struck the Nicoya Peninsula, triggering upper-plate seismicity in the interior of Costa Rica. In this study, we analyze the largest earthquakes and earthquake swarms that took place during the first nine months after the Nicoya earthquake. These swarms occurred at distances of 150 to 450 km from the Nicoya source region in different tectonic settings: the Calero Island near the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border in the backarc Caribbean region, the Sixaola region near the Costa Rica-Panama border in the backarc Caribbean region, the Cartago area in the central part of Costa Rica near the active volcanic arc, and the San Vito area in the Costa Rica-Panama border region, at the southern flank of the Talamanca Cordillera in an inactive portion of the magmatic arc. The Calero swarm with 70 2.0-to-4.2 Mw earthquakes took place from September 22 to October 9, 2012. The earthquake pattern suggests a smaller-scale fault as a possible source, which is located along the inland projection of the Hess Escarpment. The Cartago swarm with 284 1.8-to-4.1 Mw earthquakes occurred from September 5 to October 31, 2012. The focal mechanism solutions suggest that strike-slip faulting predominates in this region, consistent with neotectonic observations. The San Vito earthquake swarm with 30 2.3-to-4.5 Mw earthquakes occurred between October 14, 2012 and January 28, 2013. These earthquakes occurred in the vicinity of north-south striking faults, which are located along the inland projection of the Panama Fracture Zone. The largest earthquake (5.6 Mw) occurred on the Sixaola region on 27 of May, 2013. The focal mechanism solution suggests a thrust fault that correlates with the North Panama Deformed Belt. Documenting remotely triggered earthquakes may greatly improve seismic hazards assessment by illuminating active structures within the interior of Costa Rica.