Along-arc segmentation and interaction of subducting ridges with the Lesser Antilles Subduction forearc crust revealed by MCS imaging

We present the results from a new grid of deep penetration multichannel seismic (MCS) profiles over the 280-km-long north-central segment of the Lesser Antilles subduction zone. The 14 dip-lines and 7 strike-lines image the topographical variations of (i) the subduction interplate décollement, (ii) the top of the arcward subducting Atlantic oceanic crust (TOC) under the huge accretionary wedge up to 7 km thick, and (iii) the trenchward dipping basement of the deeply buried forearc backstop of the Caribbean upper plate. The four northernmost long dip-lines of this new MCS grid reveal several-kilometres-high topographic variations of the TOC beneath the accretionary wedge offshore Guadeloupe and Antigua islands. They are located in the prolongation of those mapped on the Atlantic seafloor entering subduction, such as the Barracuda Ridge. This MCS grid also provides unexpected evidences on huge along-strike topographical variation of the backstop basement and of the deformation style affecting the outer forearc crust and sediments. Their mapping clearly indicates two principal areas of active deformation in the prolongation of the major Barracuda and Tiburon ridges and also other forearc basement highs that correspond to the prolongation of smaller oceanic basement highs recently mapped on the Atlantic seafloor. Although different in detail, the two main deforming forearc domains share similarities in style. The imaged deformation of the sedimentary stratification reveals a time- and space-dependent faulting by successive warping and unwarping, which deformation can be readily attributed to the forearc backstop sweeping over the two obliquely-oriented elongated and localized topographical ridges. The induced faulting producing vertical scarps in this transport does not require a regional arc-parallel extensional regime as proposed for the inner forearc domain, and may support a partitioned tectonic deformation such as in the case of an outer forearc sliver. A contrasted reflectivity of the sedimentary layering at the transition between the outer forearc and accretionary domains was resolved and used to define the seaward edge of the outer forearc basement interpreted as being possibly a proxy to the updip limit of the interplate seismogenic zone. Its mapping documents along-arc variations of some tens of kilometres the subduction backstop with respect to the negative gravity anomaly commonly taken as marking the subduction trench. With the exception of the southernmost part, the newly mapped updip limit reaches 25 km closer to the trench, thus indicating a possible wider seismogenic zone over almost the whole length of the study area.


Lesser Antilles Subduction Zone, Reflection seismics, Deep outer forearc crust, Backstop, Seismogenic megathrust fault

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Laigle Mireille, Becel Anne, de Voogd Beatrice, Sachpazi Maria, Bayrakci Gaye, Lebrun Jean-Frederic, Evain Mikael, "Thales Was Right" Seismic Reflection working group (2013). Along-arc segmentation and interaction of subducting ridges with the Lesser Antilles Subduction forearc crust revealed by MCS imaging. Tectonophysics. 603. 32-54.,

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