An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation

  • Kreemer C
  • Holt W
  • Haines A
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In this paper we present a global model (GSRM-1) of both horizontal velocities on the Earth's surface and horizontal strain rates for almost all deforming plate boundary zones. A model strain rate field is obtained jointly with a global velocity field in the process of solving for a global velocity gradient tensor field. In our model we perform a least-squares fit between model velocities and observed geodetic velocities, as well as between model strain rates and observed geological strain rates. Model velocities and strain rates are interpolated over a spherical Earth using bi-cubic Bessel splines. We include 3000 geodetic velocities from 50 different, mostly published, studies. Geological strain rates are obtained for central Asia only and they are inferred from Quaternary fault slip rates. For all areas where no geological information is included a priori constraints are placed on the style and direction (but not magnitude) of the model strain rate field. These constraints are taken from a seismic strain rate field inferred from (normalized) focal mechanisms of shallow earthquakes. We present a global solution of the second invariant of the model strain rate field as well as strain rate solutions for a few selected plate boundary zones. Generally, the strain rate tensor field is consistent with geological and seismological data. With the assumption of plate rigidity for all areas other than the plate boundary zones we also present relative angular velocities for most plate pairs. We find that in general there is a good agreement between the present-day plate motions we obtain and long-term plate motions, but a few significant differences exist. The rotation rates for the Indian, Arabian and Nubian plates relative to Eurasia are 30, 13 and 50 per cent slower than the NUVEL-1A estimate, respectively, and the rotation rate for the Nazca Plate relative to South America is 17 per cent slower. On the other hand, Caribbean-North America motion is 76 per cent faster than the NUVEL-1A estimate. While crustal blocks in the India-Eurasia collision zone move significantly and self-consistently with respect to bounding plates, only a very small motion is predicted between the Nubian and Somalian plates. By integrating plate boundary zone deformation with the traditional modelling of angular velocities of rigid plates we have obtained a model that has already been proven valuable in, for instance, redefining a no-net-rotation model of surface motions and by confirming a global correlation between seismicity rates and tectonic moment rates along subduction zones and within zones of continental deformation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Continental tectonics
  • GPS
  • Global
  • Plate boundary
  • Plate motions

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  • Corné Kreemer

  • William E. Holt

  • A. John Haines

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