Andean surface uplift constrained by radiogenic isotopes of arc lavas

Erin M. Scott, Mark B. Allen, Colin G. MacPherson, Ken J.W. McCaffrey, Jon P. Davidson, Christopher Saville, Mihai N. Ducea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Climate and tectonics have complex feedback systems which are difficult to resolve and remain controversial. Here we propose a new climate-independent approach to constrain regional Andean surface uplift. 87 Sr/ 86 Sr and 143 Nd/ 144 Nd ratios of Quaternary frontal-arc lavas from the Andean Plateau are distinctly crustal (>0.705 and <0.5125, respectively) compared to non-plateau arc lavas, which we identify as a plateau discriminant. Strong linear correlations exist between smoothed elevation and 87 Sr/ 86 Sr (R 2 = 0.858, n = 17) and 143 Nd/ 144 Nd (R 2 = 0.919, n = 16) ratios of non-plateau arc lavas. These relationships are used to constrain 200 Myr of surface uplift history for the Western Cordillera (present elevation 4200 ± 516 m). Between 16 and 26°S, Miocene to recent arc lavas have comparable isotopic signatures, which we infer indicates that current elevations were attained in the Western Cordillera from 23 Ma. From 23-10 Ma, surface uplift gradually propagated southwards by ∼400 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number969
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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