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Preservation of contrasting geothermal gradients across the Caribbean-North America plate boundary (Motagua Fault, Guatemala)

Abstract : Strike-slip plate boundaries juxtapose crustal blocks that may have different geodynamic origins and therefore different thermal structures. Thermo-kinematic modeling of this type of strike-slip plate boundary predicts an asymmetric signature in the low-temperature thermochronologic record across the fault. Age-elevation profiles of zircon (U-Th)/He ages across the Motagua Fault, a 500 km long segment of the transform boundary between the North American and Caribbean plates, document a sharp cooling age discontinuity across the fault. This discontinuity could be interpreted as a difference in denudation history on each side of the fault. However, a low-relief Miocene erosional surface extends across the fault; this surface has been uplifted and incised and provides a geomorphic argument against differential denudation across the fault. By integrating magmatic, volcanic, and heat flow data, age-elevation profiles, and thermo-kinematic modeling, we propose that large horizontal displacement along the Motagua Fault has offset a persistent geothermal asymmetry across the fault and explains both the age discontinuities and the age-elevation patterns. This study illustrates how thermochronology can be used to detect large strike-slip displacements and more generally opens new perspectives in understanding the impact of nonuniform thermal structures on thermochronologic results.
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Thibaud Simon-Labric, Gilles Brocard, Christian Teyssier, Peter A. van der Beek, Maria Giuditta Fellin, et al.. Preservation of contrasting geothermal gradients across the Caribbean-North America plate boundary (Motagua Fault, Guatemala). Tectonics, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2013, 32, pp.993-1010. ⟨10.1002/tect.20060⟩. ⟨insu-00864297⟩

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