Strain Partitioning and Interseismic Fault Behavior Along the Caribbean-South American Transform Plate Boundary

M. Higgins, P. C. La Femina, J. C. Weber, H. Geirsson, G. A. Ryan, C. Wauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We combine Global Positioning System and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data to characterize the interseismic behavior (i.e., locked or creeping), and strain partitioning for the faults along the Caribbean-South American transform plate boundary. Interseismic strain is distributed mainly on three faults, the San Sebastian, El Pilar, and Central Range faults, but partitioning occurs across multiple faults in the west (San Sebastian and La Victoria faults) and east (Sub-Tobago Terrane, Central Range, and South Coast faults). In northern Venezuela, slip is partitioned on the San Sebastian (16.4 ± 1.7 mm/yr) and La Victoria (4.3 ± 0.9 mm/yr) faults. In north-eastern Venezuela, the El Pilar fault accommodates slip at a rate of 18.6 ± 1.8 mm/yr. In Trinidad and Tobago, slip is partitioned between the Sub-Tobago Terrane (3.0 ± 0.1 mm/yr), Central Range (14.5 ± 2.0 mm/yr), and South Coast (3.0 ± 0.1 mm/yr) faults. The La Victoria, San Sebastian, the western El Pilar segment, and Sub-Tobago Terrane faults are locked to depths of 16.2 ± 4.0 km, 7.7 ± 5.2 km, 6.7 ± 2.8 km, and 8.0 ± 0.2 km, respectively. The eastern segment of the El Pilar, the Central Range, and the South Coast faults all creep. Our new InSAR results indicate that the entire Central Range Fault is creeping. The locked western segment of this transform plate boundary is capable of producing a Mw 8 earthquake, which is a significant finding regarding seismic hazard and risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021TC006740
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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