Neotectonics of Graciosa island (Azores): a contribution to seismic hazard assessment of a volcanic area in a complex geodynamic setting

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Ana Hipólito
José Madeira
Rita Carmo
João Luís Gaspar


Graciosa is a mid-Pleistocene to Holocene volcanic island that lies in a complex plate boundary between the North American, Eurasian, and Nubian plates. Large fault scarps displace the oldest (Middle Pleistocene) volcanic units, but in the younger areas recent volcanism (Holocene to Upper Pleistocene) conceals the surface expression of faulting, limiting neotectonic observations. The large displacement accumulated by the older volcanic units when compared with the younger formations suggests a variability of deformation rates and the possibility of alternating periods of higher and lower tectonic deformation rates; this would increase the recurrence interval of surface rupturing earthquakes. Nevertheless, in historical times a few destructive earthquakes affected the island attesting for its seismic hazard. Regarding the structural data, two main fault systems, incompatible with a single stress field, were identified at Graciosa Island. Thus, it is proposed that the region is affected by two alternating stress fields. The stress field #1 corresponds to the regional stress regime proposed by several authors for the interplate shear zone that constitutes the Azorean segment of the Eurasia-Nubia plate boundary. It is suggested that the stress field #2 will act when the area under the influence of the regional stress field #1 narrows as a result of variations in the differential spreading rates north and south of Azores. The islands closer to the edge of the sheared region will temporarily come under the influence of a different (external) stress field (stress field #2). Such data support the concept that, in the Azores, the Eurasia-Nubia boundary corresponds to a complex and wide deformation zone, variable in time.

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How to Cite
Hipólito, A., Madeira, J., Carmo, R. and Gaspar, J. L. (2014) “Neotectonics of Graciosa island (Azores): a contribution to seismic hazard assessment of a volcanic area in a complex geodynamic setting”, Annals of Geophysics, 56(6). doi: 10.4401/ag-6222.