The nature of orogenic crust in the central Andes

Susan L. Beck, George Zandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations

Abstract

The central Andes (16°-22°S) are part of an active continental margin mountain belt and the result of shortening of the weak western edge of South America between the strong lithospheres of the subducting Nazca plate and the underthrusting Brazilian shield. We have combined receiver function and surface wave dispersion results from the BANJO-SEDA project with other geophysical studies to characterize the nature of the continental crust and mantle lithospheric structure. The major results are as follows: (1) The crust supporting the high elevations is thick and has a felsic to intermediate bulk composition. (2) The relatively strong Brazilian lithosphere is underthrusting as far west (65.5°W) as the high elevations of the western part of the Eastern Cordillera (EC) but does not underthrust the entire Altiplano. (3) The subcrustal lithosphere is delaminating piecemeal under the Altiplano-EC boundary but is not completely removed beneath the central Altiplano. The Altiplano crust is characterized by a brittle upper crust decoupled from a very weak lower crust that is dominated by ductile deformation, leading to lower crustal flow and flat topography. In contrast, in the high-relief, inland-sloping regions of the EC and sub-Andean zone, the upper crust is still strongly coupled across the basal thrust of the fold-thrust belt to the underthrusting Brazilian Shield lithosphere. Subcrustal shortening between the Altiplano and Brazilian lithosphere appears to be accommodated by delamination near the Altiplano-EC boundary. Our study suggests that orogenic reworking may be an important part of the "felsification" of continental crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ESE 7-1 - 7-16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume107
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 10 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Central Andes
  • Continental crust
  • Crustal structure
  • Lower crust
  • Regional waveforms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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