Imaging the transition from flat to normal subduction: Variations in the structure of the Nazca slab and upper mantle under southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia

Alissa Scire, George Zandt, Susan Beck, Maureen Long, Lara Wagner, Estela Minaya, Hernando Tavera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Two arrays of broad-band seismic stations were deployed in the north central Andes between 8° and 21°S, the CAUGHT array over the normally subducting slab in northwestern Bolivia and southern Peru, and the PULSE array over the southern part of the Peruvian flat slab where the Nazca Ridge is subducting under South America. We apply finite frequency teleseismic P- and S-wave tomography to data from these arrays to investigate the subducting Nazca plate and the surrounding mantle in this region where the subduction angle changes from flat north of 14°S to normally dipping in the south. We present new constraints on the location and geometry of the Nazca slab under southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia from 95 to 660 km depth. Our tomographic images show that the Peruvian flat slab extends further inland than previously proposed along the projection of the Nazca Ridge. Once the slab re-steepens inboard of the flat slab region, the Nazca slab dips very steeply (~70°) from about 150 km depth to 410 km depth. Below this the slab thickens and deforms in the mantle transition zone.We tentatively propose a ridge-parallel slab tear along the north edge of the Nazca Ridge between 130 and 350 km depth based on the offset between the slab anomaly north of the ridge and the location of the re-steepened Nazca slab inboard of the flat slab region, although additional work is needed to confirm the existence of this feature. The subslab mantle directly below the inboard projection of the Nazca Ridge is characterized by a prominent low-velocity anomaly. South of the Peruvian flat slab, fast anomalies are imaged in an area confined to the Eastern Cordillera and bounded to the east by well-resolved low-velocity anomalies. These low-velocity anomalies at depths greater than 100 km suggest that thick mantle lithosphere associated with underthrusting of cratonic crust from the east is not present. In northwestern Bolivia a vertically elongated fast anomaly under the Subandean Zone is interpreted as a block of delaminating lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-479
Number of pages23
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Dynamics of lithosphere and mantle
  • Seismic tomography
  • South America
  • Subduction zone processes
  • Tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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