Seismogenic Zone Structure Beneath the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, from Three-Dimensional Local Earthquake P- and S-Wave Tomography

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Costa Rica, earthquake location, microseismicity, Middle America subduction zone, seismic velocities, tomography

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The subduction plate interface along the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, generates damaging large (Mw > 7.5) earthquakes. We present hypocenters and 3-D seismic velocity models (VP and VP/VS) calculated using simultaneous inversion of P- and S-wave arrival time data recorded from small magnitude, local earthquakes to elucidate seismogenic zone structure. In this region, interseismic cycle microseismicity does not uniquely define the potential rupture extent of large earthquakes. Plate interface microseismicity extends from 12 to 26 and from 17 to 28 km below sea level beneath the southern and northern Nicoya Peninsula, respectively. Microseismicity offset across the plate suture of East Pacific Rise-derived and Cocos-Nazca Spreading Center-derived oceanic lithosphere is ∼5 km, revising earlier estimates suggesting ∼10 km of offset. Interplate seismicity begins downdip of increased locking along the plate interface imaged using GPS and a region of low VP along the plate interface. The downdip edge of plate interface microseismicity occurs updip of the oceanic slab and continental Moho intersection, possibly due to the onset of ductile behaviour. Slow forearc mantle wedge P-wave velocities suggest 20–30 per cent serpentinization across the Nicoya Peninsula region while calculated VP/VS values suggest 0–10 per cent serpentinization. Interpretation of VP/VS resolution at depth is complicated however due to ray path distribution. We posit that the forearc mantle wedge is regionally serpentinized but may still be able to sustain rupture during the largest seismogenic zone earthquakes.

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Geophysical Journal International, v. 164, issue 1, p. 109-124