Identification of Late Quaternary Faults in Puerto Rico and Shallow Coastal Areas
Published:January 01, 2005
2005. "Identification of Late Quaternary Faults in Puerto Rico and Shallow Coastal Areas", Active Tectonics and Seismic Hazards of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Offshore Areas, Paul Mann
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The Cerro Goden fault zone is associated with a curvilinear, continuous, and prominent topographic lineament in western Puerto Rico. The fault varies in strike from northwest to west. In its westernmost section, the fault is ∼500 m south of an abrupt, curvilinear mountain front separating the 270- to 361-m-high La Cadena de San Francisco range from the Rio Añasco alluvial valley. The Quaternary fault of the Añasco Valley is in alignment with the bedrock fault mapped by D. McIntyre (1971) in the Central La Plata quadrangle sheet east of Añasco Valley. Previous workers have postulated that the Cerro Goden fault zone continues southeast from the Añasco Valley and merges with the Great Southern Puerto Rico fault zone of south-central Puerto Rico. West of the Añasco Valley, the fault continues offshore into the Mona Passage (Caribbean Sea) where it is characterized by offsets of seafloor sediments estimated to be of late Quaternary age. Using both 1:18,500 scale air photographs taken in 1936 and 1:40,000 scale photographs taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1986, we identified geomorphic features suggestive of Quaternary fault movement in the Añasco Valley, including aligned and deflected drainages, apparently offset terrace risers, and mountain-facing scarps. Many of these features suggest right-lateral displacement.
Mapping of Paleogene bedrock units in the uplifted La Cadena range adjacent to the Cerro Goden fault zone reveals the main tectonic events that have culminated in late Quaternary normal-oblique displacement across the Cerro Goden fault. Cretaceous to Eocene rocks of the La Cadena range exhibit large folds with wavelengths of several kms. The orientation of folds and analysis of fault striations within the folds indicate that the folds formed by northeast-southwest shortening in present-day geographic coordinates. The age of deformation is well constrained as late Eocene–early Oligocene by an angular unconformity separating folded, deep-marine middle Eocene rocks from transgressive, shallow-marine rocks of middle-upper Oligocene age. Rocks of middle Oligocene–early Pliocene age above unconformity are gently folded about the roughly east-west–trending Puerto Rico–Virgin Islands arch, which is well expressed in the geomorphology of western Puerto Rico. Arching appears ongoing because onshore and offshore late Quaternary oblique-slip faults closely parallel the complexly deformed crest of the arch and appear to be related to extensional strains focused in the crest of the arch. We estimate ∼4 km of vertical throw on the Cerro Goden fault based on the position of the carbonate cap north of the fault in the La Cadena de San Francisco and its position south of the fault inferred from seismic reflection data in Mayaguez Bay. Based on these observations, our interpretation of the kinematics and history of the Cerro Goden fault zone includes two major phases of motion: (1) Eocene northeast-southwest shortening possibly accompanied by left-lateral shearing as determined by previous workers on the Great Southern Puerto Rico fault zone; and (2) post–early Pliocene regional arching of Puerto Rico accompanied by normal offset and right-lateral shear along faults flanking the crest of the arch. The second phase of deformation accompanied east-west opening of the Mona rift and is inferred to continue to the present day.