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The large-scale plate-tectonics framework of El Salvador was defined in the “plate-tectonics revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s, but important issues related to seismic hazards depend on details that have been only recently, or are not yet, understood. Present evidence suggests that coupling across the interface-thrust zone beneath coastal El Salvador is sufficient to produce occasional interface-thrust earthquakes as large as M ∼8. The rate of such earthquakes is determined by the percentage of relative plate motion that is accumulated as elastic strain on the thrust-fault interface between the Cocos and Caribbean plates, which appears to be lower than in...

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