Late Holocene Evidence of Coseismic Subsidence on the San Juan Delta, Pacific Coast of Colombia


  • Juan L. González
  • Ivan D. Correa


Barrier islands, El Nino, sedimentary facies, earthquake, coastal erosion, washover.


The San Juan delta of Colombia formed under a complex physical setting. Among the unusual factors that controlled the delta formation are: its location in an area with one of the highest precipitation rate anywhere in the world, highly variable river discharge and high sea levels of short duration, both associated with EI Nino-La Nina climatic disturbance, and high mesotidal range combined with a medium to low wave energy. Of all the aspects that make the physical setting complex, the high seismicity produced by the subduction of the Nazca plate under the South American plate, has perhaps, been the most important controlling factor in the Late Holocene development of the delta. Coring on its SW island retrieved soils buried, 1.2-1.5 m by intertidal deposits; the sharp contact between the soils and the mantling deposits, implies large sudden submergence, which is most simply explained as being coseismic, associated with the high seismicity of the area. Timing of the earthquake that caused subsidence, is placed around 500 years BP. Evidence from recent earthquakes along the South central Pacific coast of Colombia indicates tha tsubsidence >1 m requires a M 7.9 or greater earthquake.