The rise of large mountain ranges is considered to be driven by tectonics potentially coupled with climate driven-erosion, although the role of this coupling remains uncertain. The arid climate of the Central Andes allows us to strengthen our understanding of the relative roles of these processes in mountain range development globally. Here we compile estimates of exhumation, sedimentation, aridity and surface uplift across the Central Andes for the last 50 Ma. We aim to place constraints on the relative timing of rock uplift (displacement of rocks with respect to the geoid), exhumation (displacement of rocks with respect to the surface) and surface uplift (displacement of the earth's surface with respect to the geoid). We show that initial rock uplift of the Andes extends back at least 50 Myr. This rock uplift generated orographically driven precipitation on windward slopes leading to increased exhumation but limited preservation of surface uplift. Eastward propagation of the mountain range resulted in increasingly extreme orographic effects on the leeward side amplifying aridity, reducing exhumation and increasing preservation of surface uplift. Essentially, surface uplift shows a ∼5-10 Myr lag behind initial rock uplift as the Andes grow asymmetrically through time. We suggest that an eastward propagating pattern of exhumation, aridity and surface uplift with time, reconciles previous contradictory models of Andean uplift.



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Earth and Planetary Science Letters





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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences