Research ArticleGEOLOGY

Transient glacial incision in the Patagonian Andes from ~6 Ma to present

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Science Advances  12 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 7, eaay1641
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay1641


We report a mountain-scale record of erosion rates in the central Patagonian Andes from >10 million years (Ma) ago to present, which covers the transition from a fluvial to alpine glaciated landscape. Apatite (U-Th)/He ages of 72 granitic cobbles from alpine glacial deposits show slow erosion before ~6 Ma ago, followed by a two- to threefold increase in the spatially averaged erosion rate of the source region after the onset of alpine glaciations and a 15-fold increase in the top 25% of the distribution. This transition is followed by a pronounced decrease in erosion rates over the past ~3 Ma. We ascribe the pulse of fast erosion to local deepening and widening of valleys, which are characteristic features of alpine glaciated landscapes. The subsequent decline in local erosion rates may represent a return toward a balance between rock uplift and erosion.

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