Sebastian Jimenez-Rodriguez, Matthew Dettinger, Jay Quade, Kendra E. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Establishing the timing of surface uplift in the Central Andes is essential for evaluating the geodynamic mechanisms responsible for mountain building and their role in the development of dry conditions along the western coasts of Peru and Chile. Here, we present new stable hydrogen isotopic values from stream waters and hydration water in volcanic glass from northern Chile (18.5–19.5°S) that show that the Western Cordillera was already elevated by the early Miocene. The hydrogen isotopic values of reconstructed surface waters obtained from ancient and modern volcanic glass indicate that the Western Cordillera in northern Chile attained modern elevations by at least 22.8 Ma. When combined with paleoaltimetric records from the Altiplano and northwestern Puna, these results demonstrate that surface uplift of the Andean plateau was a time-transgressive process that varied not just from west to east but also from north and south along the strike of the orogen. Our paleoaltimetry reconstruction also suggests that the Western Cordillera has blocked moisture coming from the east since at least the early Miocene, consistent with previously published evidence of arid-semiarid conditions in the Atacama Desert. However, hyperaridity on the western Andean slope developed later and appears to correspond with the timing of uplift in the Eastern Cordillera and Altiplano. Our results suggest that the growth of the Central Andean rain shadow relied not only on the elevation of the Western Cordillera but also on the widening of the plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-533
Number of pages43
JournalAmerican Journal of Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Atacama Desert
  • Central Andes
  • Stable isotopes
  • Western Cordillera
  • paleoaltimetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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