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Plate motions, Andean orogeny, and volcanism above the South Atlantic convection cell

Laurent Husson 1 Conrad Clinton P. 2 Claudio Faccenna 3
1 Systèmes Tectoniques
LPG - Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique [UMR 6112], GR - Géosciences Rennes
Abstract : The geometric and kinematic evolution of the Andes provides insight onto the nature of the force balance beneath the South American plate. While the Andean load is opposed on its western edge by the force induced by subduction of the Nazca plate, its more elusive eastern counterpart, which we explore herein, requires some contribution from the mantle beneath the South Atlantic. Using a mantle flow model, we show that the Andes owe their existence to basal drag beneath South America caused by a cylindrical convection cell under the South Atlantic. We find that the observed Andean uplift requires both westward push fromactive upwelling beneath Africa andwestward drag toward the downgoing Nazca slab. These mutually-reinforcing downwellings and upwellings amount to 38% and 23% of the total driving force, respectively. Further decomposition reveals that the South Atlantic cell is most vigorous near its center, rendering the net drag force higher where the Andes also reach their highest elevation. Kinematic reconstructions suggest that the South Atlantic cell could have grown owing to the migration of the Nazca slab until ~50 Ma. We propose that from 50 Ma onwards, the cell may have ceased growing westward because (i) it had reached an optimal aspect ratio and (ii) the Nazca slab became anchored into the lower mantle. Continued westward motion of the plates, however, moved the surface expressions of spreading and convergence away from the upwelling and downwelling arms of this cell. Evidence for this scenario comes from the coeval tectonic, morphologic, and magmatic events in Africa and South America during the Tertiary.
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Laurent Husson, Conrad Clinton P., Claudio Faccenna. Plate motions, Andean orogeny, and volcanism above the South Atlantic convection cell. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2012, 316-317, pp.126-135. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2011.11.040⟩. ⟨insu-00665613⟩

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