Costa Rica Field Studies Program

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica - Geomorphology & Tectonics



Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)


Director:  Dr. Jeff Marshall


Cal Poly Pomona

Geological Sciences Department


Reading List



Overview: Middle America Convergent Margin Geomorphology & Tectonics


Marshall, J.S., 2007, Geomorphology and physiographic provinces of Central America (Chapter 3): in Bundschuh, J. and Alvarado, G., eds., Central America: Geology, Resources, and Hazards, Taylor and Francis, London, p. 75-122.


[PDF file: 2.9 Mb]


Ranero, C.R., von Huene, R., Weinrebe, W., and Barckhausen, U., 2007, Convergent margin tectonics of Central America: A marine perspective (Chapter 9): in Bundschuh, J. and Alvarado, G., eds., Central America: Geology, Resources, and Hazards, Taylor and Francis, London, p. 239-265.


[PDF file: 1.5 Mb]



Costa Rica Pacific Margin: Structure & Tectonics


Gardner, T.W., Verdonck, D., Pinter, N.M., Slingerland, R., Furlong, K.P., Bullard, T.F., and Wells, S.G., 1992, Quaternary uplift astride the aseismic Cocos Ridge, Pacific coast, Costa Rica: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 104, p. 219-232.


[PDF file: 2.4 Mb]


Fisher, D.M., Gardner, T.W., Marshall, J.S., Sak, P.B., and Protti, M., 1998, Effect of subducting sea-floor roughness on fore-arc kinematics, Pacific coast, Costa Rica: Geology, v. 26, p. 467-470.


[PDF file: 388 kb]


von Huene, R., Ranero, C., Weinrebe, W., and Hinz, K., 2000, Quaternary convergent margin tectonics of Costa Rica: Segmentation of the Cocos Plate and Central American volcanism: Tectonics, v.19, p. 314-334.


[PDF file: 3.4 Mb]


Barckhausen, U., Ranero, C.R., von Huene, R., Cande, S.C., and Roeser, H.A., 2001, Revised tectonic boundaries in the Cocos Plate off Costa Rica: Implications for the segmentation of the convergent margin and for plate tectonic models: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 106, p. 19,207–19,220.


[PDF file: 2.7 Mb]


Marshall, J.S., Fisher, D.M., and Gardner, T.W., 2000, Central Costa Rica deformed belt: Kinematics of diffuse faulting across the western Panama block, Tectonics, v. 19, p. 468-492.


[PDF file: 4.7 Mb]


Marshall, J.S., Gardner, T.W., Fisher, D.M., Sak, P.B., and Protti, M., 2001, Quaternary neotectonics of the Costa Rican coastal fore arc: Field Guide for National Science Foundation MARGINS Program Workshop on Central American Tectonics, Heredia, Costa Rica, July 2001, 62 p.


[PDF file: 8.1 Mb]


Marshall, J.S., Idleman, B.D., Gardner, T.W., and Fisher, D.M., 2003, Landscape evolution within a retreating volcanic arc, Costa Rica, Central America: Geology, v. 31, p. 419-422.


[PDF file: 1.1 Mb]


Sak, P.B., Fisher, D.M., Gardner, T.W., Marshall, J.S., and LaFemina, P.C., 2009, Rough crust subduction, forearc kinematics, and Quaternary uplift rates, Costa Rican segment of the Middle American Trench: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 121, no. 7/8, p. 992–1012; doi: 10.1130/B26237.1.


[PDF file: 2.2 Mb]



Nicoya Peninsula: Margin Wedge Accretion vs. Subduction Erosion


Shipley, T.H., McIntosh, K.D., Silver, E.A. and Stoffa, P.L., 1992, Three-dimensional seismic imaging of the Costa Rica accretionary prism: Structural diversity in a small volume of the lower slope: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 97, p. 4439–4459.


[PDF file: 3.3 Mb]


Vanucchi, P., Scholl, D.W., Meschede, M., and McDougall-Reid, K., 2001, Tectonic erosion and consequent collapse of the Pacific margin of Costa Rica: Combined implications from ODP Leg 170, seismic offshore data, and regional geology of the Nicoya Peninsula: Tectonics, v. 20, p. 649–668.


[PDF file: 2.5 Mb]


Ranero, C. and von Huene, R., 2000, Subduction erosion along the Middle America convergent margin: Nature, v. 404, p. 748–752.


[PDF file: 724 kb]


von Huene, R., Ranero, C.R., and Vannucchi, P., 2004, A generic model of subduction erosion, Geology, v. 32, doi:10.1130/G20563.1, p. 913–916.


[PDF file: 432 kb]



Nicoya Peninsula: Forearc Geology, Stratigraphy, & Tectonics


Lundberg, N., 1982, Evolution of the slope landward of the Middle America Trench, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, in Legget, J. K., ed., Trench-forearc geology: Geological Society of London Special Publication 10, p. 131-147.


[PDF file: 1.5 Mb]


Lundberg, N., 1983, Development of forearcs of intraoceanic subduction zones: Tectonics, v. 2, p. 51-61.


[PDF file: 780 kb]


Lundberg, N., 1991, Detrital record of the early Central American magmatic arc: Petrography of intraoceanic forearc sandstones, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v.103, p. 905-915.


[PDF file: 1.1 Mb]


Calvo, C., 2003, Provenance of plutonic detritus in cover sandstones of Nicoya Complex, Costa Rica: Cretaceous unroofing history of a Mesozoic ophiolite sequence: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 115, p. 832-844.


[PDF file: 6.3 Mb]


Denyer, P., and Baumgartner, P.O., 2006, Emplacement of Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous radiolarites of the Nicoya Complex (Costa Rica): Geologica Acta, v. 4, p. 203-218.


[PDF file: 2.0 Mb]


Denyer, P., Baumgartner, P.O., and Gazel, E., 2006, Characterization and tectonic implications of Mesozoic-Cenozoic oceanic assemblages of Costa Rica and Western Panama: Geologica Acta, v. 4, p. 219-235.


[PDF file: 1.4 Mb]



Nicoya Peninsula: Geomorphology & Neotectonics


Hare, P.W., and Gardner, T.W., 1985, Geomorphic indicators of vertical neotectonism along converging plate margins, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, in Morisawa, M., and Hack, J.T., eds., Tectonic geomorphology: Proceedings of the 15th Geomorphology Symposia Series, Binghamton, p. 76-104.


[PDF file: 1.9 Mb]


Marshall, J.S., and Anderson, R.S., 1995, Quaternary uplift and seismic cycle deformation, Península de Nicoya, Costa Rica: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 107, p. 463-473.


[PDF file: 500 kb]


Gardner, T.W., Marshall, J.S., Merritts, D.J., Protti, M., Bee, B., Burgette, R., Burton, E., Cooke, J., Kehrwald, N., Fisher, D., and Sak, P., 2001, Holocene fore arc block rotation in response to seamount subduction, southeastern Península de Nicoya, Costa Rica: Geology, v. 29, p. 151-154.


[PDF file: 284 kb]


Marshall, J.S., LaFromboise, E.J., Gardner, T.W., and Protti, M., 2007, Segmented forearc deformation along the Nicoya Peninsula seismic gap, Costa Rica: Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v. 88.


[PDF file: 8 Mb]


Marshall, J.S., 2008, Megathrust earthquakes, coastal uplift, and emergent marine terraces of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, in Bierman, P. and Montgomery, D., eds., Key Concepts in Geomorphology, Online Vignettes, [web site]: Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota:


[PDF file: 616 kb]


Marshall, J.S., Gardner, T.W., Protti, M., and Nourse, J.A., 2009, International geosciences řeld research with undergraduate students: Three models for experiential learning projects investigating active tectonics of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, in Whitmeyer, S.J., Mogk, D.W., and Pyle, E.J., eds., Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches: Geological Society of America Special Paper 461, p. 77-98, doi: 10.1130/2009.2461(08).


[PDF file: 1.6 Mb]



Nicoya Peninsula: Subduction Earthquakes & Seismogenic Zone Structure


Protti, M., Gonzalez, V., Schwartz, S., Dixon, T., Kato, T., Kaneda, Y., Simila, G., Sampson, D., 2007, Seismic and Geodetic Monitoring of the Nicoya, Costa Rica, Seismic Gap: Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union, v. 88, Abstract U54B-06.


[PDF file: 8 kb]


Ramirez, C., LaFromboise, E., Simila, G., McNally, K., Quintero, R., 2007, Seismic strong motion array project (SSMAP) to record future large earthquakes in the Nicoya Peninsula area, Costa Rica: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 39, Abs. 31-1.


[PDF file: 12 kb]


Newman, A.V., Schwartz, S.Y., Gonzales, V., DeShon, H.R., Protti, J.M., and Dorman, L., 2002. Along strike variability in the seismogenic zone below Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Geophysical Research Letters, v. 29, doi:10.1029/2002GL015409.


[PDF file: 536 kb]


DeShon, H.R., Schwartz, S.Y., Newman, A.V., González, V., Protti, M., Dorman, L.M. and Dixon, T.H., Sampson, D.E., and Flueh, E.R., 2006, Seismogenic zone structure beneath the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, from three-dimensional local earthquake P- and S-wave tomography: Geophysical Journal International, v. 164, p. 109–124.


[PDF file: 1.3 Mb]


Schwartz, S.Y. and DeShon, H.R., 2007, Distinct Up-dip Limits to Geodetic Locking and Microseismicity at the Northern Costa Rica Seismogenic Zone: Evidence for Two Mechanical Transitions, in Dixon, T. and Moore, J.C., eds., The Seismogenic Zone of Subduction Thrust Faults, Columbia University Press, New York, p. 576-599.


[PDF file: 1.2 Mb]


Protti, M., McNally, K., Pacheco, J, Gonzales, V., Montero, C., Segura, J., Brenes, J., Barboza, V., Malavassi, E., Güendel, F., Simila, G., Rojas, D., Velasco, A., Mata, A., and Schillinger, W., 1995, The March 25, 1990 (Mw = 7.0, ML = 6.8) earthquake at the entrace of the Nicoya Gulf, Costa Rica: Its prior activity, foreshocks, aftershocks, and triggered seismicity: Journal of Geophysical Research, v.100, p. 20,345– 20,358.


[PDF file: 1.5 Mb]


Husen, S., Kissling, E., and Quintero, R., 2002, Tomographic evidence for a subducted seamount beneath the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica: The cause of the 1990 Mw 5 7.0 Gulf of Nicoya earthquake: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 29, doi: 10.1029/2001GL014045.


[PDF file: 388 kb]


Bilek, S.L., Schwartz, S.Y., and DeShon, H.R., 2003, Control of seafloor roughness on earthquake rupture behavior: Geology, v. 31, p. 455-458.


[PDF file: 344 kb]



Nicoya Peninsula: GPS Geodesy & Plate Coupling


Lundgren, P., Protti, M., Donnellan, A., Heflin, M., Hernandez, E., and Jefferson, D., 1999, Seismic cycle and plate margin deformation in Costa Rica: GPS observations from 1994 to 1997: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 104, p. 28,915–28,926.


[PDF file: 1.3 Mb]


Iinuma, T., Protti, M., Obana, K., González, V., Van der Laat, R., Kato, T., Miyazakia, S., Kaneda, Y., Hernández, E., 2004, Inter-plate coupling in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, as deduced from a trans-peninsula GPS experiment: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 223, p. 203–212.


[PDF file: 552 kb]


Norabuena, E., Dixon, T.H., Schwartz, S., DeShon, H., Newman, A., Protti, A., González, V., Dorman, L., Flueh, E.R., Lundgren, P., Pollitz, F., and Sampson, D., 2004, Geodetic and seismic constraints on some seismogenic zone processes in Costa Rica: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 109, B11403, doi:10.1029/2003JB002931.


[PDF file: 2.2 Mb]


Outerbridge, K.C., Dixon, T.H., Schwartz, S.Y., Walter, J.I., Protti, M., Gonzalez, V., Biggs, J., Thorwart, M., and Rabbel, W., 2010, A tremor and slip event on the Cocos-Caribbean subduction zone as measured by a global positioning system (GPS) and seismic network on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B10408, doi:10.1029/2009JB006845.


[PDF file: 6.1 Mb]


Feng, L., Newman, A.V., Protti, M., González, V., Jiang, Y., and Dixon, T.H., 2012, Active deformation near the Nicoya Peninsula, northwestern Costa Rica, between 1996 and 2010: Interseismic megathrust coupling: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 117, B06407, doi:10.1029/2012JB009230.


[PDF file: 5.1 Mb]



Nicoya Peninsula: Subduction Zone Thermal Structure & Fluid Flow


Fisher, A.T., Stein, C.A., Harris, R.N., Wang, K., Silver, E.A., Pfender, M., Hutnak, M., Cherkaoui, A., Bodzin, R. and Villinger, H., 2003, Abrupt thermal transition reveals hydrothermal boundary and role of seamounts within the Cocos Plate: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 30, 1550, doi:10.1029/2002GL016766.


[PDF file: 1.2 Mb]


Spinelli, G.A. and Saffer, D., 2004, Along-strike variations in underthrust sediment dewatering on the Nicoya margin, Costa Rica related to the updip limit of seismicity: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 31, 4613, doi:10.1029/2003GL018863.


[PDF file: 412 kb]


Spinelli, G.A. and Underwood, M.B., 2004, Characterization of sediment entering the Costa Rica subduction zone: Implications for fluid partitioning along the Nicoya Peninsula plate interface: Island Arc, v. 3, p. 432–451.


[PDF file: 572 kb]


Brown, K.M., Tryon, M.D., DeShon, H.R., Dorman, L.M., Schwartz, S.Y., 2005, Correlated transient fluid pulsing and seismic tremor in the Costa Rica subduction zone: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 238, p.189-203.


[PDF file: 636 kb]