Thermal regime of the Costa Rican convergent margin: 2. Thermal models of the shallow Middle America subduction zone offshore Costa Rica

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Abstract

At the Costa Rica margin along the Middle America Trench along-strike variations in heat flow are well mapped. These variations can be understood in terms of either ventilated fluid flow, where exposed basement allows fluids to freely advect heat between the crustal aquifer and ocean, or insulated fluid flow where continuous sediment cover restricts heat advection to within the crustal aquifer. We model fluid flow within the subducting aquifer using Nusselt number approximations coupled with finite element models of subduction and explore its effect on temperatures along the subduction thrust. The sensitivity of these models to the initial thermal state of the plate and styles of fluid flow, either ventilated or insulated, is explored. Heat flow measurements on cool crust accreted at the East Pacific Rise are consistent with ventilated hydrothermal cooling that continues with subduction. These models yield much cooler temperatures than predicted from simulations initialized with conductive predictions and without hydrothermal circulation. Heat flow transects on warm crust accreted at the Cocos-Nazca spreading center are consistent with models of insulated hydrothermal circulation that advects heat updip within the subducting crustal aquifer. Near the trench these models are warmer than conductive predictions and cooler than conductive predictions downdip of the trench. Comparisons between microseismicity and modeled isotherms suggest that the updip limit of microseismicity occurs at temperatures warmer than 100°C and that the downdip extent of microseismicity is bounded by the intersection of the subduction thrust with the base of the overriding crust.

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