Rough crust subduction, forearc kinematics, and Quaternary uplift rates, Costa Rican segment of the Middle American Trench

Peter B. Sak, Donald M. Fisher, Thomas W. Gardner, Jeffrey S. Marshall, Peter C. LaFemina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Orthogonal subduction of bathymetrically rough oceanic lithosphere along the northwestern flank of the Cocos Ridge imprints a distinctive style of deformation on the overriding Costa Rican forearc. We divide the Costa Rican forearc into three 100 - 160-km-long deformational domains based on the bathymetric roughness and thickness of the Cocos plate entering the Middle American Trench, the dip of the subducting plate, the variation in surface uplift rates of late Quaternary coastal deposits, and the orientations and types of faults deforming Paleogene and Neogene sedimentary rocks. In the ∼100-km-long Nicoya domain, coastal deposits show localized surface uplift and arcward tilting above the downdip projections of the fossil trace of the Cocos-Nazca-Panama (CO-NZ-PA) triple junction and the Fisher seamount and ridge. In the ∼120-km-long central Pacific forearc domain between the Nicoya Peninsula and Quepos, shallower (∼60°) subduction of seamounts and plateaus is accompanied by trench-perpendicular late Quaternary normal faults. Steeply dipping, northeast-striking, margin-perpendicular faults accommodate differential uplift associated with seamount subduction. Uplift and faulting differ between the segments of the forearc facing subducting seamounts and ridges. Inner forearc uplift along the seamount-dominated segment is greatest inboard of the largest furrows across the lower slope. Localized uplift and arcward tilting of coastal deposits is present adjacent to subducting seamounts. In contrast, inboard of the underthrusting aseismic Cocos Ridge, along the ∼160-km-long Fila Costeña domain between Quepos and the Burica Peninsula, mesoscale fault populations record active shortening related to the ∼100-km-long Fila Costeña fold-and-thrust belt. The observed patterns of faulting and permanent uplift are best explained by crustal thickening. The uplifted terraces provide a first-order estimate of permanent strain along the forearc in Costa Rica. The permanent strain recorded by uplift of these Quaternary surfaces exceeds the predicted rebound of stored elastic strain released during subduction-zone earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1012
Number of pages21
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Rough crust subduction, forearc kinematics, and Quaternary uplift rates, Costa Rican segment of the Middle American Trench'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this