Central Costa Rica deformed belt: Kinematics of diffuse faulting across the western Panama block

Jeffrey S. Marshall, Donald M. Fisher, Thomas W. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Fault kinematics, seismicity, and geodetic data across central Costa Rica reveal a diffuse fault zone, here named the Central Costa Rica Deformed Belt (CCRDB). The CCRDB defines the western margin of the Panama block and links the North Panama Deformed Belt (NPDB) along the Caribbean coast with the Middle America Trench (MAT) along the Pacific coast. The junction of the CCRDB and the MAT coincides with an abrupt transition from smooth to rough crust on the subducting Cocos plate (rough-smooth boundary). Shallow subduction of rough, thickened oceanic crust associated with the Cocos Ridge shifts active shortening into the volcanic arc along faults of the CCRDB. Variable fault kinematics along this zone may reflect three combined deformation mechanisms: horizontal shortening and shear from oceanic ridge indentation, basal traction from shallow subduction, and localized block uplift from subducting seamount roughness. Within the forearc (domain 1), mesoscale faults express transtension where steep NE striking regional-scale faults intersect the Pacific coast. Across the volcanic arc (domain 2), mesoscale faults exhibit mostly sinistral and dextral slip on NE and NW striking conjugate faults, respectively. Approaching the NPDB in the back arc (domain 3), transcurrent faulting is modified by transpression and crustal thickening. Fault kinematics are consistent with earthquake focal mechanisms and Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements. Radiometric age constraints confirm that faulting post-dates the late Neogene onset of shallow subduction. The ensuing deformation front has propagated northward into the volcanic arc to its present position along the seismically active CCRDB. Within the forearc, the effect of shallow subduction is overprinted by local uplift related to underthrusting seamounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-492
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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