Written by John Sandru and Beth Bartel
14 February 2014
Determining how the Caribbean plate moves with respect to the neighboring North America and South America plates has been a major challenge. Geologic plate motion models using seafloor magnetic anomaly rates, transform fault azimuths, and slip vectors are challenging due to sparse data. The only rates come from the Cayman Spreading Center, and seismicity at the eastern boundary is low due to slow convergence. Moreover, the boundary geometry is still unclear, since the Caribbean plate's north and south boundaries are complex deformation zones.
GPS data continues to provide key clues to the Caribbean region’s geologic faults. GPS stations are currently being installed as part of the Continuously Operating Caribbean GPS Observational Network (COCONet), strengthening the indispensible collection of data belonging to a region that faces many atmospheric and geologic natural hazards.
While the hardware used in the Plate Boundary Observatory works well in temporate climates, COCONet requires hardware better suited to hot, humid, and salty environs. UNAVCO has moved away from the metal hardware and enclosures of PBO to all plastic hardware and enclosures. Even stainless steel in the Caribbean starts to rust anywhere it has been welded or is in contact with another type of alloy such as aluminum. Anything that is just zinc coated rust away in about a year. For sites in the most corrosive environments, like the COCONet sites in Jamaica, we protect the metal monuments with multiple coats of marine paint.
CN13 and CN14 were installed in conjunction with The Bahamas Metrological Department. CN13 was installed on San Salvador Island, which is the original landing location of Christopher Columbus. It continues to be a popular dive location. CN14 is located on Great Inagua, a birders' paradise and the most southern island of the Bahamas chain. It is also home to Morton Salt, the main employer of the island.
The COCONet project was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the aim of developing a large-scale geodetic and atmospheric infrastructure in the Caribbean that will form the backbone for a broad range of geoscience and atmospheric investigations and enable research on process-oriented science questions with direct relevance to geohazards. The Caribbean Plate is a unique opportunity to monitor movement, because most of the plate rests underwater. Prior to this endeavor there has been limited monitoring of the Caribbean Plate. Furthermore, each site is equipped with a weather station which records vital atmospheric data that is analyzed by our friends at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) to monitor the movement of potentially deadly hurricanes.
Last modified: 2020-01-28 22:54:29 America/Denver