Effects of Flat Slab Subduction on Andean Thrust Kinematics and Foreland Basin Evolution in Western Argentina

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Brian K Horton, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States, Facundo Fuentes, Pluspetrol, Buenos Aires, Argentina, N Ryan McKenzie, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Geological Sciences, Austin, TX, United States, Kurt N Constenius, University of Arizona, Department of Geosciences, Tucson, AZ, United States and Patricia M Alvarado, National University of San Juan, Geophysics and Astronomy, San Juan, Argentina; CONICET and Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Departamento de Geofísica y Astronomía, FCEFN, San Juan, Argentina
Debate persists over the effects of flat-slab subduction on the kinematics of overriding plate deformation and the evolution of retroarc sedimentary basins. In western Argentina, major spatial and temporal variations in the geometry of the subducting Nazca slab since ~15 Ma provide opportunities to evaluate the late Cenozoic response of the Andean fold-thrust belt and foreland basin to subhorizontal subduction. Preliminary results from several structural and sedimentary transects spanning the frontal thrust belt and foreland basin system between 31°S and 35°S reveal Oligocene–middle Miocene hinterland exhumation during normal-slab subduction followed thereafter by progressive slab shallowing with initial rapid cratonward propagation of ramp-flat thrust structures (prior to basement-involved foreland uplifts) and accompanying wholesale exhumation and recycling of the early Andean foreland basin (rather than regional dynamic subsidence). Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronologic data prove instrumental for revealing shifts in thrust-belt exhumation, defining depositional ages within the foreland basin, and constraining the timing of activity along frontal thrust structures. In both the San Juan (31-32°S) and Malargüe (34-35°S) segments of the fold-thrust belt, geochronological results for volcaniclastic sandstones and syndeformational growth strata are consistent with a major eastward advance in shortening at 12-9 Ma. This episode of rapid thrust propagation precedes the reported timing of Sierras Pampeanas basement-involved foreland uplifts and encompasses modern regions of both normal- and flat-slab subduction, suggesting that processes other than slab dip (such as inherited crustal architecture, critical wedge dynamics, and arc magmatism) are additional regulators of thrust-belt kinematics and foreland basin evolution.