The Andes are the classic example of a subduction-related orogen. Segmentation of the orogenic belt is related to dynamics of the subduction zone and to upper plate thermomechanical properties. Understanding the controlling factors on deformation along the orogen requires studying cross sections at different latitudes and determining the respective roles of plate interactions, upper plate weakness zones, and crustal architecture. A newly constructed balanced cross section of the Argentinean Andes at 35°S, in the transition between a flat-slab and a normal subduction segment, shows tectonic inversion of Mesozoic normal faults and development of new thrusts during Andean shortening. Estimated shortening of 26.2 km, equivalent to 22% of the initial length, is lower than previous estimates obtained from partial cross sections using non-inversion structural models. Comparison of this estimate with crustal area balance constrained by geophysical data indicates that (1) crustal thickness was varied across the transect before Andean shortening, with a thick (∼45 km) crustal block to the west related to late Paleozoic orogeny, and a thinner block (∼32 km) in the east related to Mesozoic stretching; and (2) a structural model incorporating tectonic inversion is consistent with regional shortening and crustal thickness trends. Our results underscore the role of the inherited characteristics of the upper plate in subduction-related orogens, including preexisting faults and preorogenic crustal thickness variations.
- Received 12 April 2013.
- Revision received 24 February 2014.
- Accepted 8 April 2014.
- © Geological Society of America