A geomorphological approach to determining the Neogene to Recent tectonic deformation in the Coastal Cordillera of northern Chile (Atacama)

R. Riquelme, J. Martinod, G. Hérail, J. Darrozes, R. Charrier

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70 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The large ( ≈ 10000 km2) and local-scale ( <400 km2) geomorphologic, geomorphometric and field evidence indicates that, from the mid-Miocene onwards, the Atacama Fault System (AFS) accommodated the relative uplift of the western side of the Chilean Coastal Cordillera of the Chañaral region (southern Atacama Desert). The mean regional altitude systematically decreases eastwards crossing the AFS, independent of the lithological characteristics of the substratum cut by this system of faults. Topographic analysis reveals a more incised landscape west of the AFS that, at the local scale, is reported by the distribution of the altitudes (hypsometric curves and integrals) of tributary basins and by the presence of terraces. In the Middle and Upper Miocene, a thick (>300 m) sedimentary succession was deposited east of the AFS. The succession fills previously deep paleovalleys. And it consists of gravel, so-called "Atacama Gravels", which passes laterally into fine-grained playa related deposits near the AFS. We interpret the deposition of this succession as a result of a blocking closure of the valley flowing from the Precordillera due to the activity on AFS. A pedimentation episode followed sediment deposition and is locally strongly reincised by the main modern-day river valleys draining the Precordillera. Incision may result from either regional uplift of the forearc, and/or from more localized activity on the AFS. Furthermore, Recent (Quaternary?) tectonic activity on the AFS has been observed which is consistent with a localized relative uplift of the crustal block west of the AFS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-275
Number of pages21
JournalTectonophysics
Volume361
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2003

Keywords

  • Andes
  • Chile
  • Fluvial erosion
  • Neotectonics
  • Quantitative geomorphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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