Get access

Motion of the Scotia Sea plates



Earthquake data from the Scotia Arc to early 2002 are reviewed in the light of satellite gravity and other data in order to derive a model for the motion of plates in the Scotia Sea region. Events with magnitude ≥5, which occurred on or near the boundaries of the Scotia and Sandwich plates, and for which Centroid Moment Tensor (CMT) solutions are available, are examined. The newer data fill some of the previous sampling gaps along the boundaries of the Scotia and Sandwich plates, and provide tighter constraints on relative motions. Variations in the width of the Brunhes anomaly on evenly spaced marine magnetic profiles over the East Scotia Ridge provide new estimates of Scotia–Sandwich plate spreading rates. Since there are no stable fracture zones in the east Scotia Sea, the mean azimuth of sea floor fabric mapped by sidescan is used to constrain the direction of spreading. 18 new rate estimates and four azimuths from the East Scotia Ridge are combined with 68 selected earthquake slip vectors from the boundaries of the Scotia Sea in a least-squares inversion for the best-fitting set of Euler poles and angular rotation rates describing the ‘present-day’ motions of the Scotia and Sandwich plates relative to South America and Antarctica. Our preferred model (TLP2003) gives poles that are similar to previous estimates, except for Scotia Plate motion with respect to South America, which is significantly different from earlier estimates; predicted rates of motion also differ slightly. Our results are much more robust than earlier work. We examine the implications of the model for motion and deformation along the various plate boundaries, with particular reference to the North and South Scotia Ridges, where rates are obtained by closure.