Is there a northern Lesser Antilles forearc block?

Alberto M. López, S. Stein, T. Dixon, G. Sella, E. Calais, P. Jansma, J. Weber, P. LaFemina

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53 Scopus citations


A systematic discrepancy exists between slip vectors of thrust fault earthquakes at the Lesser Antilles trench (LAT) and the predicted direction of North American-Caribbean convergence. A possibility has been that the discrepancy resulted because neither was well constrained. Estimating Caribbean motion has been challenging owing to the limited data along the plate's complex boundaries. Similarly, earlier studies had few slip vectors because interplate thrust events are infrequent. To address these difficulties, we estimate a new Caribbean-North America Euler vector using recently available GPS data from sites in the presumably stable interior of the Caribbean, and compare the predicted velocities to a larger set of slip vectors. The discrepancy persists, suggesting the northern Lesser Antilles forearc (NLAF) moves as a distinct entity from both the Caribbean and North America. For simplicity, we treat its motion as a coherent block, but because GPS sites are not within the NLAF, distributed deformation is also possible. Although there is no geologic evidence for the boundaries of the presumed NLAF block, GPS data show that the motions of Martinique, Barbados, and Trinidad are similar to that of the Caribbean, suggesting that none are on the NLAF block, and the southern LAT is weakly coupled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL07313
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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