The Gorda plate, the southernmost fragment of the larger Juan de Fuca plate system, is an example of a nonrigidly deforming tectonic accommodation zone or buffer plate, absorbing deformation and allowing the surrounding larger plates to act in a more rigid fashion. Here we present a new structural analysis of the plate based on full-plate bathymetric coverage, augmented by seismic reflection data and earthquake moment tensors and locations. We interpret internal deformation of the Gorda plate as an asymmetrical flexural-slip buckle with a vertical axis, utilizing reactivation of spreading-ridge fabric normal faults as strike-slip faults. Newly formed second-generation faults crosscutting the structural grain overprint the reactivated structures. The spreading fabric faults finally begin a second phase of extension as the plate approaches the subduction zone. This model, based on fault constraints, has allowed investigation of ridge-plate–subduction interactions, and suggests that spreading-rate variations along the Gorda Ridge may be controlled by internal deformation of the plate rather than the reverse, as previously hypothesized.

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