EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Evolution of Caribbean subduction from P-wave tomography and plate reconstruction

Robert Allen1, Benedikt Braszus2, Saskia Goes1, Andreas Rietbrock2, Jenny Collier1, and the The VoiLA Team*
Robert Allen et al.
  • 1Imperial College, Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2Geophysical Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

The Caribbean plate has a complex tectonic history, which makes it  particularly challenging to establish the evolution of the subduction zones at its margins. Here we present a new teleseismic P-wave tomographic model under the Antillean arc that benefits from ocean-bottom seismometer data collected in our recent VoiLA (Volatile Recycling in the Lesser Antilles) project. We combine this imagery with a new plate reconstruction that we use to predict possible slab positions in the mantle today. We find that upper mantle anomalies below the eastern Caribbean correspond to a stack of material that was subducted at different trenches at different times, but ended up in a similar part of the mantle due to the large northwestward motion of the Americas. This stack comprises: in the mantle transition zone, slab fragments that were subducted between 70 and 55 Ma below the Cuban and Aves segments of the Greater Arc of the Caribbean; at 450-250 km depth, material subducted between 55 and 35 Ma below the older Lesser Antilles (including the Limestone Caribees and Virgin Islands);  and above 250 km, slab from subduction between 30 and 0 Ma below the present Lesser Antilles to Hispaniola Arc. Subdued high velocity anomalies in the slab above 200 km depth coincide with where the boundary between the equatorial Atlantic and proto-Caribbean subducted, rather than as previously proposed, with the North-South American plate boundary. The different phases of subduction can be linked to changes in the age, and hence buoyancy structure, of the subducting plate.

The VoiLA Team:

Rob Allen(1), Benedikt Braszus(2), Saskia Goes(1), Andreas Rietbrock(2), Jenny Collier(1), Nick Harmon(3), Tim Henstock(3), Stephen Hicks(1), Kate Rychert(3), Ben Maunder(1), Jeroen van Hunen(4), Lidong Bie(2), Jon Blundy(5), George Cooper(5), Jon Davidson(8), Richard Davy(1), Mike Kendall(5), Colin Macpherson(4), Julie Prytulak(4), Jamie Wilkinson(6), and Marjorie Wilson(7)

How to cite: Allen, R., Braszus, B., Goes, S., Rietbrock, A., and Collier, J. and the The VoiLA Team: Evolution of Caribbean subduction from P-wave tomography and plate reconstruction, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-9018,, 2020


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