Caribbean Plate (Caribbean, Central/North America)

Caribbean Plate (Caribbean, Central/North America)

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 18:12

The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America. These borders are regions of intense seismic activity, including frequent earthquakes, occasional tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America. Roughly 3.2 million sq km (1.2 million sq mi) in area, the Caribbean Plate borders the North American Plate, the South American Plate, the Nazca Plate and the Cocos Plate. These borders are regions of intense seismic activity, including frequent earthquakes, occasional tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

The northern boundary with the North American plate is a transform or strike-slip boundary which runs from the border area of Belize, Guatemala (Motagua Fault), and Honduras in Central America, eastward through the Cayman trough on south of the southeast coast of Cuba, and just north of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Part of the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean (roughly 8,400 m or 27,500 ft), lies along this border. The Puerto Rico trench is at a complex transition from the subduction boundary to the south and the transform boundary to the west.

The eastern boundary is a subduction zone, the Lesser Antilles subduction zone, where oceanic crust of the South American Plate is being subducted under the Caribbean Plate. Subduction forms the volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc from the Virgin Islands in the north to the islands off the coast of Venezuela in the south. This boundary contains seventeen active volcanoes, most notably Soufriere Hills on Montserrat; Mount Pelée on Martinique; La Grande Soufrière on Guadeloupe; Soufrière Saint Vincent on Saint Vincent; and the submarine volcano Kick-’em-Jenny which lies about 10 km (6+ mi) north of Grenada.

Along the geologically complex southern boundary, the Caribbean Plate interacts with the South American Plate forming Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago (all on the Caribbean Plate), and islands off the coast of Venezuela (including the Leeward Antilles) and Colombia. This boundary is in part the result of transform faulting along with thrust faulting and some subduction. The rich Venezuelan petroleum fields possibly result from this complex plate interaction.

The western portion of the plate is occupied by Central America. The Cocos Plate in the Pacific Ocean is subducted beneath the Caribbean Plate, just off the western coast of Central America. This subduction forms the volcanoes of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, also known as the Central America Volcanic Arc.