The Nazca‐South America convergence rate and the recurrence of the Great 1960 Chilean Earthquake

Seth Stein*, Joseph F. Engeln, Charles DeMets, Richard G. Gordon, Dale Woods, Paul Lundgren, Don Argus, Carol Stein, Douglas A. Wiens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The seismic slip rate along the Chile Trench estimated from the slip in the great 1960 earthquake and the recurrence history of major earthquakes has been interpreted as consistent with the subduction rate of the Nazca plate beneath South America. The convergence rate, estimated from global relative plate motion models, depends significantly on closure of the Nazca ‐ Antarctica ‐ South America circuit. NUVEL‐1, a new plate motion model which incorporates recently determined spreading rates on the Chile Rise, shows that the average convergence rate over the last three million years is slower than previously estimated. If this time‐averaged convergence rate provides an appropriate upper bound for the seismic slip rate, either the characteristic Chilean subduction earthquake is smaller than the 1960 event, the average recurrence interval is greater than observed in the last 400 years, or both. These observations bear out the nonuniformity of plate motions on various time scales, the variability in characteristic subduction zone earthquake size, and the limitations of recurrence time estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-716
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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