Consistency of Geologic and Geodetic Displacements During Andean Orogenesis

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Present-day displacements within the Central Andes are being measured using high precision GPS geodesy. Until now, comparison of such ground motions within deforming plate boundary zones to those on a geologic time scale has not been possible due to lack of sufficient geological data. In the Central Andes, a comparable dataset for the past 25 Ma of mountain building can be reconstructed. Here, we use new interpretations of shortening rates averaged over 25–10 Ma and 10 Ma–present and find that whilst displacement directions have remained virtually constant and parallel, an acceleration has occurred synchronously with a slowing of convergence between the Nazca and South American plates. Geologic shortening rates in the Andes are initially ∼5–8 mm yr−1, and increase to ∼10–15 mm yr−1 whilst convergence slows from ∼150 mm yr−1 to ∼70 mm yr−1. Displacement and convergence rates inferred from GPS and marine magnetic data suggest that this trend may be continuing at present. Hence an increasing fraction of convergence is being absorbed by mountain building. This change may reflect increased plate coupling due to decreased sediment supply, younger subducting lithosphere, or increased normal stress at the interface from the effects of uplift.

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Geophysical Research Letters, v. 29, issue 8, art. 1188