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Fracture zone collision along the South Panama margin

G. F. Moore
G. F. Moore
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K. L. Sender
K. L. Sender
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January 01, 1995

Seismic reflection profiles and SeaMARC II imagery from the southwest Panama margin demonstrate that oblique convergence is presently occurring along what had previously been thought of as a transform margin. Our seismic profiles image landward-dipping thrust faults and seaward-verging folds at the toe of the slope. The frontal deformation zone as imaged on the SeaMARC II mosaic is 12 to 15 km wide with individual east-west-trending folds and thrusts that are laterally continuous for 5 to 10 km. Much of the terrigenous trench sediment is offscraped and accreted, forming an accretionary prism (South Panama deformed belt).

Three linear ridges (part of the Panama Fracture Zone complex) are being obliquely subducted along the southwest Panama margin. The oblique convergence causes the ridges to sweep eastward along the trench. The SeaMARC II mosaic shows that the regional structure of the South Panama deformed belt is dominated by east-west-trending trench segments that are separated by the north-south fracture zone ridges. The trench shallows where the ridges intersect the trench, and the deformation front is warped around the ridges. On the east side of each ridge the accretionary complex bends to a northwest-southeast trend, suggesting that the ridges are deforming the accretionary complex. As the accretionary prism rides up over each ridge, it thickens markedly. By the time the prism reaches the top of the ridge, its surface slope has been greatly oversteepened and large portions of accreted material slump into the trench. After passage of the ridge, the system returns to its “normal” state, and accretion resumes, adding the slumped material back into the accretionary prism. The accretionary prism is thus only temporarily disrupted by the subduction of the Panama Fracture Zone system ridges.

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GSA Special Papers

Geologic and Tectonic Development of the Caribbean Plate Boundary in Southern Central America

Paul Mann
Paul Mann
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Geological Society of America
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January 01, 1995



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