Motion and rigidity of the Pacific Plate and implications for plate boundary deformation Academic Article


  • Using up to 11 years of data from a global network of Global Positioning System (GPS) stations, including 12 stations well distributed across the Pacific Plate, we derive present-day Euler vectors for the Pacific Plate more precisely than has previously been possible from space geodetic data. After rejecting on statistical grounds the velocity of one station on each of the Pacific and North American plates, we find that the quality of fit of the horizontal velocities of 11 Pacific Plate (PA) stations to the best fitting PA Euler vector is similar to the fit of 11 Australian Plate (AU) velocities to the AU Euler vector and ∼20% better than the fit of nine North American Plate (NA) velocities to the NA Euler vector. The velocities of stations on the Pacific and Australian Plates each fit a rigid plate model with an RMS residual of 0.4 mm/yr, while the North American velocities fit a rigid plate model with an RMS velocity of 0.6 mm/yr. Our best fitting PA/AU relative Euler vector is located ∼170 km southeast of the NUVEL-1A pole but is not significantly different at the 95% confidence level. It is also close (<70 km in position and <3% in rate) to a pole derived from transform faults identified from satellite altimetry, suggesting that the vector has not changed significantly over the past 3 Myr. Our relative Euler vector is also consistent with all known geological and geodetic evidence concerning the AU/PA plate boundary through New Zealand. The GPS sites offshore of southern California are presently moving 4–5 ± 1 mm/yr relative to predicted Pacific velocity, with their residual velocities in approximately the opposite direction to PA/NA relative motion. Likewise, the easternmost sites in South Island, New Zealand, are moving ∼3 ± 1 mm/yr relative to predicted Pacific velocity, with the residuals in approximately the opposite direction to PA/AU relative motion. These velocity residuals are in the same sense as predicted by elastic strain accumulation on known plate boundary faults but are of a significantly higher magnitude in both southern California and New Zealand, implying that the plate boundary zones in both regions are wider than previously believed.


publication date

  • 2002

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • 107


  • B10

times cited

  • 160