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​​​​Volcán Tabor, Ibagué, Tolima

 Volume 4 Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Interplate Coupling along the Nazca Subduction Zone on the Pacific Coast of Colombia Deduced from GeoRED GPS Observation Data   

Takeshi SAGIYA and Héctor MORA–PÁEZ

ISBN impreso obra completa: 978-958-52959-1-9

ISBN digital obra completa: 978-958-52959-6-4

ISBN impreso Vol. 4: 978-958-52959-5-7

ISBN digital Vol. 4: 978-958-52959-9-5​

Citation is suggested as: 

Sagiya, T. & Mora–Páez, H. 2020. Interplate coupling along the Nazca subduction zone on the Pacific coast of Colombia deduced from GeoRED GPS observation data. In: Gómez, J. & Pinilla–Pachon, A.O. (editors), The Geology of Colombia, Volume 4 Quaternary. Servicio Geológico Colombiano, Publicaciones Geológicas Especiales 38, p. 499–513. Bogotá.

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The Nazca Plate subducts beneath Colombia and Ecuador along the Pacific coast where large megathrust events repeatedly occur. Distribution of interplate coupling on the subducting plate interface based on precise geodetic data is important to evaluate future seismic potential of the megathrust. We analyze recent continuous GPS data in Colombia and Ecuador to estimate interplate coupling in the Nazca subduction zone. To calculate the interplate coupling ratio, in addition to the MORVEL plate velocities, three different Euler poles for the North Andean Block are tested but just two of them yielded similar results and are considered appropriate for discussing the Pacific coastal area. The estimated coupling distribution shows four main locked patches. The middle two locked patches correspond to recent large earthquakes in this area in 1942, 1958, and 2016. The southernmost locked patch may be related to slow slip events. The northern locked patch has a smaller coupling ratio of less than 0.5, which may be related to the large earthquake in 1979. However, because of the sparsity of the GPS network, detailed interpretation is not possible. If we assume that the seismic moment accumulation rate is correctly estimated, the recurrence interval for a 1979–type earthquake is estimated to be ca. 124 years. More GPS data, including seafloor GPS/acoustic sensors, will greatly improve the current estimates of interplate coupling.


Keywords: interplate coupling, Nazca Plate, GPS, North Andean Block.


La Placa de Nazca subduce por debajo de Colombia y Ecuador a lo largo de la costa del Pacífico donde repetidamente ocurren grandes eventos sísmicos. La distribución del acoplamiento interplaca en la interfaz de la placa subducente basada en datos geodésicos precisos es importante para evaluar el futuro potencial sísmico de un evento. Analizamos datos continuos recientes de GPS en Colombia y Ecuador para estimar el acoplamiento de placas en la zona de subducción de Nazca. Para calcular la relación del acoplamiento entre placas, además de las velocidades de placa MORVEL, se probaron tres polos de Euler diferentes para el bloque norte de los Andes, pero dos de ellos arrojaron resultados similares y se consideran apropiados para analizar el área costera del Pacífico. La distribución estimada de acoplamiento muestra cuatro parches principales bloqueados. Los dos parches bloqueados en el medio corresponden a los grandes sismos recientes en esta área de 1942, 1958 y 2016. El parche bloqueado más al sur puede estar relacionado con eventos de deslizamiento lento. El parche bloqueado al norte tiene una relación de menor acoplamiento, menos de 0,5, que puede estar relacionada con el gran sismo de 1979. Sin embargo, debido a la escasa red de GPS, no es posible realizar una interpretación detallada. Si asumimos que la tasa de acumulación de momento sísmico es estimada correctamente, el intervalo de recurrencia para un sismo tipo 1979 es estimado en ca. 124 años. Más datos GPS, incluyendo sensores acústicos/ GPS del piso marino, mejorarán en gran medida las estimaciones actuales del acoplamiento interplaca.


Palabras clave: acoplamiento interplaca, Placa de Nazca, GPS, bloque norte de los Andes.

Abbreviations ​

ABIC                                      Akaike's Bayesian Information Criterion

GeoRED                           Geodesia: Red de Estudios de Deformación

GPS                                       Global Positioning System

MORVEL                        Mid–Ocean Ridge Velocity


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