Propagation of orographic barriers along an active range front: Insights from sandstone petrography and detrital apatite fission-track thermochronology in the intramontane Angastaco basin, NW Argentina

Isabelle Coutand, Barbara Carrapa, Anke Deeken, Axel K. Schmitt, Edward R. Sobel, Manfred R. Strecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

The arid Puna plateau of the southern Central Andes is characterized by Cenozoic distributed shortening forming intramontane basins that are disconnected from the humid foreland because of the defeat of orogen-traversing channels. Thick Tertiary and Quaternary sedimentary fills in Puna basins have reduced topographic contrasts between the compressional basins and ranges, leading to a typical low-relief plateau morphology. Structurally identical basins that are still externally drained straddle the eastern border of the Puna and document the eastward propagation of orographic barriers and ensuing aridification. One of them, the Angastaco basin, is transitional between the highly compartmentalized Puna highlands and the undeformed Andean foreland. Sandstone petrography, structural and stratigraphic analysis, combined with detrital apatite fission-track thermochronology from a ∼6200-m-thick Miocene to Pliocene stratigraphic section in the Angastaco basin, document the late Eocene to late Pliocene exhumation history of source regions along the eastern border of the Puna (Eastern Cordillera (EC)) as well as the construction of orographic barriers along the southeastern flank of the Central Andes. Onset of exhumation of a source in the EC in late Eocene time as well as a rapid exhumation of the Sierra de Luracatao (in the EC) at about 20Ma are recorded in the detrital sediments of the Angastaco basin. Sediment accumulation in the basin began ∼15Ma, a time at which the EC had already built sufficient topography to prevent Puna sourced detritus from reaching the basin. After ∼13Ma, shortening shifted eastward, exhuming ranges that preserve an apatite fission-track partial annealing zone recording cooling during the late Cretaceous rifting event. Facies changes and fossil content suggest that after 9Ma, the EC constituted an effective orographic barrier that prevented moisture penetration into the plateau. Between 3.4 and 2.4Ma, another orographic barrier was uplifted to the east, leading to further aridification and pronounced precipitation gradients along the mountain front. This study emphasizes the important role of tectonics in the evolution of climate in this part of the Andes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalBasin Research
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

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intramontane basin
thermochronology
petrography
apatite
sandstone
cordillera
basin
exhumation
aridification
plateau
Pliocene
Eocene
annealing
sediment
detritus
rifting
relief
penetration
Miocene
moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Propagation of orographic barriers along an active range front : Insights from sandstone petrography and detrital apatite fission-track thermochronology in the intramontane Angastaco basin, NW Argentina. / Coutand, Isabelle; Carrapa, Barbara; Deeken, Anke; Schmitt, Axel K.; Sobel, Edward R.; Strecker, Manfred R.

In: Basin Research, Vol. 18, No. 1, 03.2006, p. 1-26.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "The arid Puna plateau of the southern Central Andes is characterized by Cenozoic distributed shortening forming intramontane basins that are disconnected from the humid foreland because of the defeat of orogen-traversing channels. Thick Tertiary and Quaternary sedimentary fills in Puna basins have reduced topographic contrasts between the compressional basins and ranges, leading to a typical low-relief plateau morphology. Structurally identical basins that are still externally drained straddle the eastern border of the Puna and document the eastward propagation of orographic barriers and ensuing aridification. One of them, the Angastaco basin, is transitional between the highly compartmentalized Puna highlands and the undeformed Andean foreland. Sandstone petrography, structural and stratigraphic analysis, combined with detrital apatite fission-track thermochronology from a ∼6200-m-thick Miocene to Pliocene stratigraphic section in the Angastaco basin, document the late Eocene to late Pliocene exhumation history of source regions along the eastern border of the Puna (Eastern Cordillera (EC)) as well as the construction of orographic barriers along the southeastern flank of the Central Andes. Onset of exhumation of a source in the EC in late Eocene time as well as a rapid exhumation of the Sierra de Luracatao (in the EC) at about 20Ma are recorded in the detrital sediments of the Angastaco basin. Sediment accumulation in the basin began ∼15Ma, a time at which the EC had already built sufficient topography to prevent Puna sourced detritus from reaching the basin. After ∼13Ma, shortening shifted eastward, exhuming ranges that preserve an apatite fission-track partial annealing zone recording cooling during the late Cretaceous rifting event. Facies changes and fossil content suggest that after 9Ma, the EC constituted an effective orographic barrier that prevented moisture penetration into the plateau. Between 3.4 and 2.4Ma, another orographic barrier was uplifted to the east, leading to further aridification and pronounced precipitation gradients along the mountain front. This study emphasizes the important role of tectonics in the evolution of climate in this part of the Andes.",
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