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Volcán Tabor, Ibagué, Tolima

 Volume 4 Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Subduction Geometries in Northwestern South America   

Carlos Alberto VARGAS

https://doi.org/10.32685/pub.esp.38.2019.11


Citation is suggested as: 

Vargas, C.A. 2020. Subduction geometries in northwestern South America. In: Gómez, J. & Pinilla–Pachon, A.O. (editors), The Geology of Colombia, Volume 4 Quaternary. Servicio Geológico Colombiano, Publicaciones Geológicas Especiales 38, p. 397–422. Bogotá. https://doi.org/10.32685/pub.esp.38.2019.11​


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Abstract 


Using hypocentral solutions and arrival times of first P and S waves recorded by stations of the Red Sismológica Nacional de Colombia (RSNC), as well as GPS, gravity, and magnetic public datasets, I have estimated velocity tomograms, Curie depth points, and the strain field along NW South America to evaluate the subduction process and interactions of the first–order tectonic blocks. A wire model has been estimated supported by three profiles based on gravity forward modeling, earthquake distribution, and b–values to elucidate the subduction behavior of the Caribbean and Nazca Plates under the South America Plate, highlighting at least three subduction scenarios, where in addition to the Caldas lithospheric tear, other minor tears are found in the lithospheric system of this region. Although it is possible a flat subduction along NW Venezuela, it is presented as an alternative hypothesis a steeper subduction, which mechanically is coherent with the structural features observed in this region. The wire model shows how the Caribbean Plate accommodates mechanically to change from flat subduction in the south to steeper subduction in the north, differentially uplifting the Santa Marta and Santander Massifs along a weakness zone that corresponds to the Santa Marta–Bucaramanga Fault System. The absence of a modern volcanic arc in the Eastern Cordillera and/or the serranía de Perijá is a consequence of slow low–angle subduction, which is associated with the compressional regime induced by the Panamá tectonic indenter. In this scenario, I hypothesize the presence of a zone of fluid accumulation (>130 km depth) derived from the dehydration process; these fluids cannot ascend to the surface, which impedes the formation of current active magmatism. However, during the last 9–12 Ma of relevant influence of the Panamá Arc against NW South America, other emplacements of magmatic material might have occurred along this orogenic system. The wire model also shows that the low seismic activity within the Antioquian Batholith is a consequence of its rigidity, promoting the transfer of strain derived from the subduction process from west to east, generating high seismic activity along its borders and suggesting that compositional and elastic properties at depth maintain its coherence as a structural body beyond the upper crust. A similar interpretation is indicated for the southern Eastern Cordillera.

 

Keywords: local earthquake tomography, Curie point depth, strain field, subduction, Caribbean Plate, Nazca Plate.



Resumen 

Usando soluciones hipocentrales y los tiempos de arribo de las primeras ondas P y S registradas por las estaciones de la Red Sismológica Nacional de Colombia (RSNC), así como bases de datos públicas de GPS, gravimetría y magnetometría, se han estimado tomogramas de anomalías de velocidad sísmica, la profundidad del punto de Curie y el campo de esfuerzos a lo largo del costado noroccidental de Suramérica para evaluar el proceso de subducción y las interacciones de los bloques tectónicos de primer orden. Se ha estimado un modelo soportado por tres perfiles basados en el modelado gravimétrico directo, la distribución de sismos y los valores b para dilucidar el comportamiento de la subducción de las placas del Caribe y de Nazca bajo la Placa de Suramérica. Se destacan al menos tres escenarios de subducción, donde además del desgarre litosférico de Caldas, otros desgarres menores se encuentran en el sistema litosférico de esta región. Aunque es posible una subducción horizontal a lo largo del borde noroccidental de Venezuela, se presenta como hipótesis alternativa una subducción más inclinada que mecánicamente es coherente con los rasgos estructurales observados en esta región. El modelo muestra como la Placa del Caribe se acomoda mecánicamente para cambiar de una subducción plana en el sur a una más inclinada en el norte, elevando diferencialmente los macizos de Santa Marta y Santander a lo largo de una zona de debilidad que corresponde al Sistema de Fallas Santa Marta–Bucaramanga. La ausencia de un arco volcánico moderno en la cordillera Oriental o en la serranía de Perijá es una consecuencia de la subducción lenta de bajo ángulo, que está asociada con el régimen compresional inducido por el empuje tectónico de Panamá. En este escenario se asume la presencia de una zona de acumulación de fluidos (>130 km de profundidad) derivados del proceso de deshidratación; estos fluidos no pueden ascender a la superficie, lo que impide la formación del magmatismo activo en la actualidad. Sin embargo, durante los últimos 9–12 Ma de importante influencia del Arco de Panamá contra Suramérica, otros emplazamientos de material magmático podrían haber ocurrido a lo largo de este sistema orogénico. El modelo también muestra que la baja actividad sísmica en el Batolito de Antioquia es una consecuencia de su rigidez, lo que fomenta la transferencia de deformación derivada de los procesos de subducción de occidente a oriente y genera una alta actividad sísmica a lo largo de sus bordes. Esto sugiere que las propiedades composicionales y elásticas a profundidad mantienen su coherencia como un cuerpo estructural más allá de la corteza superior. Una interpretación similar es indicada para el sur de la cordillera Oriental.


Palabras clave: tomografía sísmica local, profundidad del punto de Curie, campo de esfuerzo, subducción, Placa del Caribe, Placa de Nazca. 


Abbreviations 


CPD                                 Curie point depth

PFZ                                   Panamá fracture zone

RSNC                            Red Sismológica Nacional de Colombia

SCDB                            South Caribbean deformed belt

SMBF                           Santa Marta–Bucaramanga Fault System

SMM                                                       Santa Marta Massif



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