Inherited weaknesses control deformation in the flat slab region of Central Argentina

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Andrea Stevens, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, Barbara Carrapa, University of Arizona, Geosciences, Tucson, AZ, United States, Mariano Larrovere, Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica de La Rioja (CRILAR), La Rioja, Argentina and R. Hernán Aciar, Universidad Nacional de San Juan, San Juan, Argentina
The Sierras Pampeanas region of west-central Argentina has long been considered a geologic type-area for flat-slab induced thick-skinned deformation. Frictional coupling between the horizontal subducting plate and South American lithosphere from ~12 Ma to the present provides an obvious causal mechanism for the basement block uplifts that characterize this region. New low temperature thermochronometry data show basement rocks from the central Sierras Pampeanas (~ longitude 66 ̊ W) including Sierras Cadena de Paiman, Velasco and Mazan retain a cooling history of Paleozoic - Mesozoic tectonics events. Results from this study indicate that less than 2 km of basement has been exhumed since at least the Mesozoic. These trends recorded by both apatite fission track (AFT) and apatite helium (AHe) thermochronometry suggest that recent Mio-Pliocene thick-skinned deformation associated with flat-slab subduction follow inherited zones of weakness from Paleozoic terrane sutures and shear zones and Mesozoic rifting. If a Cenozoic foreland basin exisited in this region, its thickness was minimal and was controlled by paleotopography. Pre-Cenozoic cooling ages in these ranges that now reach as high as 4 km imply significant exhumation of basement rocks before the advent of flat slab subduction in the mid-late Miocene. It also suggests that thick-skinned deformation associated with flat slab subduction may at least be facilitated by inherited crustal-scale weaknesses. At the most, pre-existing zones of weakness may be required in regions of thick-skinned deformation. Although flat-slab subduction plays an important role in the exhumation of the Sierras Pampeanas, it is likely not the sole mechanism responsible for thick-skinned deformation in this region. This insight sheds light on the interpretation of modern and ancient regions of thick-skinned deformation in Cordilleran systems.