The Case for Tectonic Control on Erosional Exhumation on the Tropical Northern Andes Based on Thermochronology Data

N. Pérez-Consuegra, G. D. Hoke, A. Mora, P. Fitzgerald, E. R. Sobel, J. R. Sandoval, J. Glodny, V. Valencia, M. Parra, S. Zapata

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14 Scopus citations


The tropical Northern Andes constitutes a great area to explore the interaction of tectonics and climate on the evolution of orogenic topography, as they are tectonically active, have steep gradients in relief and precipitation, and were less affected by Quaternary glaciations than high-latitude mountains. This study combines new and published thermochronology along ∼500 km of the Eastern Cordillera in Colombia to explore what controls the rates of Miocene and Pliocene exhumation, including: (1) variations in late Cenozoic paleoclimate, (2) orographic precipitation or (3) variation in rock uplift associated with structural heterogeneities along the eastern flank of the range. New thermochronology data consists of 27 apatite and seven zircon (U-Th)/He ages and five apatite fission track ages. Thermal history models show that rock cooling as a result of erosional exhumation has occurred everywhere in the Eastern Cordillera since at least the Miocene at spatially and temporally variable rates. Exhumation rates vary by an order of magnitude between various fault-bounded blocks and there is no evidence for a spatially uniform increase in exhumation rates during the past ∼4–5 Ma that would indicate uniform climatic driven exhumation. The west (dry) to east (wet) gradient in precipitation rates across the Garzon Massif is not a major factor controlling the exhumation rates, as the exhumation rates are highest on the western drier flank. The greatest rates of exhumation of the Eastern Cordillera occur in the blocks associated with vigorous Cenozoic reactivation of inherited faults that had focused extension during Early Cretaceous rifting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020TC006652
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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