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Regional gravity anomalies and crustal structure in northern Colombia

September 1, 1973

The central range of the Colombian Andes gives way northward to a series of Cenozoic fault-bordered basins and uplifts near the Caribbean Sea. Pre-Cenozoic structures exposed in the uplifts curve increasingly toward the east to become parallel to the continental margins along the south side of the Caribbean. Major Cenozoic faults, with large vertical and horizontal displacements, cut across older structures which include Permian-Triassic(?) and Late Cretaceous to early Tertiary metamorphic zones, Precambrian gneiss, and Jurassic batholiths.

Gravity anomalies have large amplitudes in the Santa Marta area. Bouguer anomalies rise to +130 mgals over the crystalline rocks of the high Santa Marta massif. Over adjacent Cenozoic basins, they range down to −80 mgals over the Lower Magdalena basin and to −65 mgals over the Baja Guajira basin. Steep gravity gradients characterize the Santa Marta and Oca faults on the west and north sides of the massif, respectively.

In the Guajira Peninsula region, Bouguer anomalies increase to +105 mgals over a serpentinite zone at Cabo de la Vela and to +55 mgals over Cretaceous volcanic rocks in the southern peninsula. Two smaller basins on the peninsula are characterized by negative Bouguer anomalies. Steep gradients characterize many of the major Cenozoic faults, and two concealed faults are postulated on this basis.

Though useful for evaluating the relative vertical displacements, which may exceed 10 km along faults bounding the Santa Marta massif, the gravity data yield no definitive information on the large horizontal displacements postulated along some of the major faults of the area. The Bouguer anomalies do indicate, however, the extension of some of the Cenozoic basins into offshore areas.

Strong positive Bouguer anomalies of the Santa Marta massif and its great relief, which exceeds 9 km relative to the floor of the adjacent Caribbean, indicate thin continental crust, lack of isostatic balance, and relatively recent uplift for the massif. After corrections are made for the gravitational effects of Tertiary sedimentary basins in the Guajira Peninsula, most of the peninsular region also has positive anomalies, suggesting a relatively thin continental crust and a lack of isostatic balance. A mechanism of overthrusting, in relatively recent time, of the continental margin over the adjacent Caribbean upper mantle and crust to the northwest can account for the observations.

Publication Year 1973
Title Regional gravity anomalies and crustal structure in northern Colombia
DOI 10.1130/0016-7606(1973)84<2905:RGAACS>2.0.CO;2
Authors J. E. Case, W.D. MacDonald
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geological Society of America Bulletin
Index ID 70241869
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse