Exhuming retroarc fold-and-thrust belts: a comparison between the southern Patagonian Andes and the Argentine Precordillera

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Julie C Fosdick, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States
Detailed constraints on erosional flux are critical for understanding how exhumational processes control and respond to tectonic events in orogenic belts. This work compares the thermochronologic record and erosional behavior of retroarc thrust belts at two latitudes in the Andes with contrasting Cenozoic climate and deformational records: the glaciated southern Patagonian Andes and the semiarid Argentine Precordillera of the Central Andes. Both regions have undergone crustal shortening during Andean growth and have been affected by thermotectonic processes associated with subduction of oceanic ridges; the Chile Ridge spreading center and Juan Fernández Ridge, respectively. In Patagonia, deep erosion occurred during Miocene retroarc deformation. Zircon He thermochronology documents regional cooling and unroofing of the thrust belt ~22-17 Ma. This behavior likely reflects an upper plate manifestation of incipient subduction of the Chile Ridge spreading center and enhanced unroofing during thermally driven regional uplift. Late Cenozoic expansion of the Patagonian icesheet led to further excavation of the thrust belt, indicating a strong climatic overprinting on thrust belt erosional behavior. In contrast, less overall Cenozoic exhumation is observed in the Argentine Precordillera, despite high strain and crustal thickening. Pre-Jurassic zircon He dates from the Paleozoic strata within thrust sheets suggest Cenozoic Andean deformation was insufficient to exhume rocks from beneath the zircon He closure depth. The apatite He record shows a close correlation between thrust faulting and locus of erosion, and document eastward in-sequence rock cooling from 16 to 2 Ma across the Precordillera tracking with the progressive faulting of the Blanca, San Roque, and Niquivil thrust faults during this time. Pliocene apatite He dates located along the external margins of the Precordillera suggest that the most recent cooling and unroofing is associated with both out-of-sequence faulting and deformation in the Eastern Precordillera basement triangle zone during flat slab subduction. Considered together, both sectors of the Andean retroarc domain have undergone complex unroofing histories and exhibit important differences in geologic inheritance, thermotectonic evolution, and climatic regimes.