Subduction in the southern Caribbean: Images from finite-frequency P wave tomography

M. J. Bezada, A. Levander, B. Schmandt

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The eastern boundary of the Caribbean plate is marked by subduction of the Atlantic under the Lesser Antilles. The southeastern plate boundary is characterized by a strike-slip margin, while different configurations of subduction of the southwest Caribbean under South America have been proposed. We investigate the slab geometry in the upper mantle using multiple-frequency, teleseismic P wave tomography. Waveforms from P and PKPdf phases from 285 (Mb > 5.0) events occurring at epicentral distances from 30 to 90 and greater than 150 were bandpass filtered and cross-correlated to obtain up to three sets of delay times for each event. The delay times were inverted using approximate first Fresnel zone sensitivity kernels. Our results show the subducting Atlantic slab, as well as a second slab in the west of the study area that we interpret as a subducting fragment of the Caribbean plate. Both slabs have steep dips where imaged and can be traced to depths greater than 600 km. These results are consistent with transition zone boundary topography as determined by receiver function analysis. The Atlantic slab extends continent-ward south of the plate bounding strike-slip margin. We interpret this extension as continental margin lithospheric mantle that is detaching from beneath South America and subducting along with the oceanic Atlantic slab. The steep subduction of the Caribbean occurs ∼500 km landward from the trench, implying an initial stage of shallow subduction as far to the east as the Lake Maracaibo-Mrida Andes region, as has been inferred from intermediate depth seismicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB12333
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


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