GPS Measurement of Relative Motion of the Cocos and Caribbean Plates and Strain Accumulation Across the Middle America Trench

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Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements in 1988 and 1991 on Cocos Island (Cocos plate), San Andres Island (Caribbean plate), and Liberia (Caribbean plate, mainland Costa Rica) provide an estimate of relative motion between the Cocos and Caribbean plates. The data for Cocos and San Andres Islands, both located more than 400 km from the Middle America Trench, define a velocity that is equivalent within two standard errors (7 mm/yr rate, 5 degrees azimuth) to the NUVEL-1 plate motion model. The data for Liberia, 120 km from the trench, define a velocity that is similar in azimuth but substantially different in rate from NUVEL-1. The discrepancy can be explained with a simple model of elastic strain accumulation with a subduction zone that is locked to a relatively shallow (20±5 km) depth.

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Geophysical Research Letters, v. 20, issue 20, p. 2167-2170