Active orogeny of the south-central Andes studied with GPS geodesy


We present GPS measurements of the crustal velocity field in the southern Central Andes between the Santa Cruz corner and the Malargüe fold and thrust belt, and model this interseismic velocity field as the combination of an ephemeral, elastic signal associated with locking of the main plate boundary, and a steady and non-reversing component of displacement associated with localized backarc convergence and growth of the mountain belt. We find that this second component, i.e. the ongoing and permanent displacement of the forearc and the high Andes relative to the craton, can be modeled very well as a steady clockwise rotation of an Andean microplate about a pole located in southern Argentina. Near the Malargüe Basin, this microplate (or block) is moving nearly parallel to the strike of the orogen, transporting material towards the bend in the central Andes. Farther north, in the southern limb of the Central Andes, the motion of this same crustal block is directed nearly perpendicular to the strike of the mountain belt. Our results suggest that permanent deformation rates in the backarc range from a maximum of ∼ 6-7 mm/yr in the Bolivian Subandes to less than ∼ 3 mm/yr in the Argentine Precordillera and Malargue fold and thrust belt. It is likely that most active backarc deformation is accruing in a narrow zone (∼ 50 km wide) associated with the backarc boundary (usually defined as the thrust front) though at this stage it is impossible to distinguish whether specific backarc structures are actively accruing strain. © 2006 Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina.

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Revista de la Asociacion Geologica Argentina

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