Elements Covers

Posts by Taylor F. Schildgen

The Topographic Evolution of the Central Andes

Changes in topography on Earth, particularly the growth of major mountain belts like the Central Andes, have a fundamental impact on regional and global atmospheric circulation patterns. These patterns, in turn, affect processes such as precipitation, erosion, and sedimentation. Over the last two decades, various geochemical, geomorphologic, and geologic approaches have helped identify when, where, and how quickly topography has risen in the past. The current spatio-temporal picture of Central Andean growth is now providing insight into which deep-Earth processes have left their imprint on the shape of the Earth’s surface.

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The Central Andes: Elements of an Extreme Land

The Central Andes and the Atacama Desert represent a unique geological, climatic, and magmatic setting on our planet. It is the only place on Earth where subduction of an oceanic plate below an active continental margin has led to an extensive mountain chain and an orogenic plateau that is second in size only to the Tibetan Plateau, which resulted from continental collision. In this article, we introduce the history of the Central Andes and the evolution of its landscape. We also discuss links between tectonic forces, magmatism, and the extreme hyperarid climate of this land that, in turn, has led to rich deposits of precious ores and minerals.

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