• south-central Costa Rican subduction zone;
  • seismometer transect through northern Cordillera de Talamanca;
  • receiver functions;
  • subduction of the Cocos Ridge edge

The deep structure of the south-central Costa Rican subduction zone has not been studied in great detail so far because large parts of the area are virtually inaccessible. We present a receiver function study along a transect of broadband seismometers through the northern flank of the Cordillera de Talamanca (south Costa Rica). Below Moho depths, the receiver functions image a dipping positive conversion signal. This is interpreted as the subducting Cocos Plate slab, compatible with the conversions in the individual receiver functions. In finite difference modeling, a dipping signal such as the one imaged can only be reproduced by a steeply (80°) dipping structure present at least until a depth of about 70–100 km; below this depth, the length of the slab cannot be determined because of possible scattering effects. The proposed position of the slab agrees with previous results from local seismicity, local earthquake tomography, and active seismic studies, while extending the slab location to greater depths and steeper dip angle. Along the trench, no marked change is observed in the receiver functions, suggesting that the steeply dipping slab continues until the northern flank of the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the transition region between the incoming seamount segment and Cocos Ridge. Considering the time predicted for the establishment of shallow angle underthrusting after the onset of ridge collision, the southern Costa Rican subduction zone may at present be undergoing a reconfiguration of subduction style, where the transition to shallow underthrusting may be underway but still incomplete.