Uplift and Deformation of the Western Andean Slope, Northernmost Chile: Insights from Deformed Early Miocene Ignimbrites

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 15:10
304 (Moscone South)
Marit Elise van Zalinge1, R Stephen J Sparks2, Frances J Cooper2, Laura Evenstar1, Joe Aslin2 and Daniel James Condon3, (1)University of Bristol, Earth Sciences, Bristol, United Kingdom, (2)University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom, (3)NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Keyworth, United Kingdom
In northern Chile and southern Peru, deformed early Miocene ignimbrites characterize the Western Andean Slope (WAS). In this study we use the emplacement and subsequent deformation of these large-volume ignimbrites to reconstruct the pre-eruptive paleotopography and constrain Miocene uplift rates across the WAS in northernmost Chile. Our results provide evidence that the uplift of the WAS began as early as Eocene-Oligocene time, with elevated rates of uplift during the middle-late Miocene.

In northernmost Chile, the WAS is covered by the early Miocene Oxaya Formation (22.7 Ma – 19.6 Ma), a series of ignimbrites and minor sediments that includes the large-volume (>3000 km3), 21.9 Ma Cardones ignimbrite. Following eruption, these ignimbrites were faulted, tilted, and folded into the long-wavelength Huaylillas anticline, which forms a steep slope rising ~2300 m over a distance of ~40 km.

Based on the assumption that large-volume ignimbrites like the Cardones infill existing topography to create a relatively uniform low-gradient surface slope of ~1°, we performed a line-balanced reconstruction of this surface. Results suggest the existence of a proto-WAS, with an elevation up to ~1800 m, prior to 21.9 Ma. This proto-WAS had local paleo-lows, in which the Cardones ignimbrite was able to reach thicknesses exceeding 1000 m. We interpret these lows as river valleys that transported sediment from the proto-WAS westwards towards the Central Basin, creating an Eocene-Oligocene (~50-22.7 Ma) clastic wedge, expressed today as the Azapa Formation.

After deposition of the Oxaya Formation, the WAS experienced <1° of westward tilting, faulting, and folding resulting in ~2000 m of uplift along the hinge of the Huaylillas anticline. U-Pb geochronology of zircons from intercalated volcanic units in the syn-tectonic Huaylas Basin on the eastern limb of the anticline suggest that the majority of this Miocene uplift occurred between 16 and 6 Ma.