Rapid regional surface uplift of the northern Altiplano plateau revealed by multiproxy paleoclimate reconstruction

Nandini Kar, Carmala N. Garzione, Carlos Jaramillo, Timothy Shanahan, Victor Carlotto, Alex Pullen, Federico Moreno, Veronica Anderson, Enrique Moreno, John Eiler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The central Altiplano is inferred to have experienced ~2.5±1km surface uplift between ~10 and 6 Ma, while the southern Altiplano experienced a similar magnitude of surface uplift that began earlier, between ~16 and 9 Ma. To properly constrain the along strike timing of the Altiplano plateau surface uplift, it is necessary to know how and when the northernmost part of the Altiplano plateau evolved. We reconstruct the paleoclimate and infer the corresponding paleoelevation from the Miocene-Pliocene deposits of the Descanso-Yauri basin (14-15°S) in the northernmost part of the Altiplano plateau using 4 different proxies, including carbonate clumped isotope composition (i.e., δ47 values), carbonate δ18Oc, leaf wax δDwax and pollen assemblages from paleosol, lacustrine and palustrine carbonates and organic-rich sediments. The isotopic signatures reflect past climate conditions of mean annual air temperature (δ47) and meteoric water isotope values (δ18Oc, δDwax). Our results show that the northernmost plateau remained at low elevation (0.9±0.8 to 2.1±0.9km) until late Miocene time (~9 Ma) characterized by ~15 °C warmer than modern temperature (mean annual air temperature of 23±4 °C, 2σ), low elevation vegetation and precipitation signature with reconstructed δ18Omw (VSMOW) of -8.3±2.0‰(2σ) from carbonate (δ18Oc) and -8.6±1.8‰(2σ) from leaf wax (δDwax). Modern elevations of 4 km were not reached until 5.4±1.0Ma, as indicated by a negative shift in δDwax (VSMOW) from -143.4±12.8‰(2σ) to -209.2±21.1‰(2σ) between 9.1±0.7 and 5.4±1.0Ma. The timing of surface uplift of the northernmost Altiplano is consistent with the evidence for late Miocene surface uplift of the central Altiplano (16-19°S) between 10 and 6 Ma, and indicates that regional scale uplift in the northern-central plateau significantly postdates the onset of surface uplift in the southern Altiplano (19-22°S) between ~16 and 9 Ma. These results are consistent with piecemeal removal of the lower dense lithosphere, combined with possible lower/middle crustal flow from south to north in the plateau acting as the main mechanisms for the formation of the Altiplano plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-47
Number of pages15
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Altiplano
  • Clumped isotope
  • Leaf wax
  • Multiproxy
  • Paleoelevation
  • Pollen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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