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Journal Articles Geophysical Journal International Year : 2023

Continental block motion in the Northern Andes from GPS measurements


Northwestern South America is a plate boundary zone where the Nazca, Caribbean and South American plates interact to produce a wide area of active continental deformation from the Gulf of Guayaquil (latitude 3 • S) to Venezuela. Previous studies have identified a ∼2000-km-long continental sliver, referred as the North Andean Sliver (NAS), squeezed between the Nazca, Caribbean and South American plates and escaping at ∼1 cm yr −1 northeastward with respect to South America. Subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the NAS has produced a sequence of large and g reat ear thquakes during the 20th century along the coast of Ecuador and Colombia. Large crustal earthquakes up to magnitude 7.7 have been documented along the proposed eastern boundar y of the N AS. How e ver, acti ve tectonics data, historical and recent earthquakes all indicate active fault systems within the NAS, possibly resulting from the interaction of several tectonic blocks. Here, we derive an extensive horizontal velocity field using continuous and episodic GNSS data from 1994 to 2019.9, covering northern Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela. We model the GNSS velocity field using a kinematic elastic block approach that simultaneously solves for rigid tectonic block rotations and interseismic coupling along the subduction interfaces and along major crustal faults. In contrast to previous results that considered a single rigid NAS, our dense GNSS velocity field demonstrates that the NAS undergoes significant internal deformation and cannot be modelled as single rigid block. We find that block kinematics in the nor ther n Andes are well described by the rotation of 6 tectonic blocks, showing increasing eastward motion from south to north. The Eastern boundary of the sliver is defined by a right-lateral transpressive fault system accommodating 5.6-17 mm yr −1 of motion. Fragmentation of the NAS occurs through several fault systems with slip rates of 2-4 mm yr −1. Slow reverse motion is found across the sub-Andean domain in Ecuador and northern Peru at 2-4 mm yr −1 , marking a transitional area between the NAS and stable South America. In contrast, such a transitional sub-Andean domain does not exist in Colombia and western Venezuela. At the northwestern corner of Colombia, fast (∼15 mm yr −1) eastward motion of the Panama block with respect to the NAS results in arc-continent collision. We propose that the Uramita fault and Eastern Panama Deformed Zone define the current Panama/NAS boundary, accommodating 6 and 15 mm yr −1 of relative motion, respectively. A fraction of the Panama motion appears to transfer northeastward throughout the San Jacinto fold belt and as far east as longitude ∼75 • W. Along the Caribbean coast, our model confirms, slow active
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hal-04195348 , version 1 (04-09-2023)



Paul Jarrin, Jean-Mathieu Nocquet, Frédérique Rolandone, Laurence Audin, H Mora-Páez, et al.. Continental block motion in the Northern Andes from GPS measurements. Geophysical Journal International, 2023, 235, pp.1434 - 1464. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggad294⟩. ⟨hal-04195348⟩
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