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The West Andean Thrust, the San Ramón Fault, and the seismic hazard for Santiago, Chile

Abstract : The importance of west verging structures at the western flank of the Andes, parallel to the subduction zone, appears currently minimized. This hampers our understanding of the Andes‐Altiplano, one of the most significant mountain belts on Earth. We analyze a key tectonic section of the Andes at latitude 33.5°S, where the belt is in an early stage of its evolution, with the aim of resolving the primary architecture of the orogen. We focus on the active fault propagation–fold system in the Andean cover behind the San Ramón Fault, which is critical for the seismic hazard in the city of Santiago and crucial to decipher the structure of the West Andean Thrust (WAT). The San Ramón Fault is a thrust ramp at the front of a basal detachment with average slip rate of ∼0.4 mm/yr. Young scarps at various scales imply plausible seismic events up to Mw 7.4. The WAT steps down eastward from the San Ramón Fault, crossing 12 km of Andean cover to root beneath the Frontal Cordillera basement anticline, a range ∼5 km high and >700 km long. We propose a first‐order tectonic model of the Andes involving an embryonic intracontinental subduction consistent with geological and geophysical observations. The stage of primary westward vergence with dominance of the WAT at 33.5°S is evolving into a doubly vergent configuration. A growth model for the WAT‐Altiplano similar to the Himalaya‐Tibet is deduced. We suggest that the intracontinental subduction at the WAT is a mechanical substitute of a collision zone, rendering the Andean orogeny paradigm obsolete.
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Rolando Armijo, Rodrigo Rauld, Ricardo Thiele, Gabriel Vargas, Jaime Campos, et al.. The West Andean Thrust, the San Ramón Fault, and the seismic hazard for Santiago, Chile. Tectonics, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2010, 29 (2), pp.TC2007. ⟨10.1029/2008TC002427⟩. ⟨insu-01288765⟩

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