Cretaceous-Cenozoic tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Nicaraguan Rise based on seismic reflection, wells, and potential fields data



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The Nicaraguan Rise in the western Caribbean Sea is a poorly studied Late Cretaceous to Recent modern carbonate platform with surrounding deeper-water basins that covers an offshore area of ~700,000 km2 within the maritime zones of Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Colombia. This mega-regional subsurface study integrates interpretations of 50,000 kilometers of 2D seismic reflection data and 16 wells from both academic and industry sources with seismic refraction, satellite gravity, new and previous age dating from wells, and outcrop data. The first objective of the study is to define the underlying crustal structure and basement architecture of the Nicaraguan Rise in order to reconstruct the complex tectonic events that shaped the western half of the Caribbean plate. I identify three subsurface terranes beneath the Nicaraguan Rise that include: 1) the offshore extension of the Precambrian-Paleozoic continental Chortis block of Honduras; 2) the subsurface location of the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene arc rocks of the Great Arc of the Caribbean known from outcrops in Nicaragua and Jamaica; and 3) the subsurface location of the Late Cretaceous Caribbean large igneous province known from outcrops in Jamaica, the Greater Antilles, Central America, and northern South America. The second objective of the study is to define Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic history of the Jamaica area with emphasis on correlating tectonic events well known from over a century of outcrop studies in Jamaica, to poorly studied, correlative events offshore. The major event studied is the late Miocene to recent formation of the Jamaica strike-slip restraining bend that deformed and uplifted a previous generation of Paleogene rifts on the island, and controlled offshore depocenters formed from localized restraining bend uplifts. I identify the major east-west strike-slip faults and NW-striking reverse faults both on- and offshore. Using well log information, I reconstruct basin histories in offshore basins and relate these events to basins onshore in Jamaica. The third objective of the study is define a previously unrecognized area of intraplate deformation within the Upper and Lower Nicaraguan Rise that is active, but moving slower than the current resolution of GPS-based geodesy. These faults correspond in some cases to the older, terrane-bounding faults described in the first part of the study.



Tectonics, Caribbean, Nicaraguan Rise


Portions of this document appear in: Ott, B., and P. Mann (2015), Late Miocene to Recent formation of the Aure-Moresby fold-thrust belt and foreland basin as a consequence of Woodlark microplate rotation, Papua New Guinea, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 16, 1988-2004, doi:10.1002/2014GC005668.