Pliocene-Quaternary deformation and magmatism at the southern margin of the Puna plateau, Argentine Andes

Date

2005

Authors

Baldwin, Austin Kyle

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Abstract

New fault data and mapping of volcanic rocks from northwestern Argentina's Cordillera de San Buenaventura, a Pliocene-Quaternary, E-W trending volcanic range at the southern margin of the Puna plateau adjacent to the modern volcanic arc at 27°S, reveal numerous tectonomagmatic characteristics unique in the region. Faults in the Cordillera de San Buenaventura dominantly strike ENE-WSW, with lengths reaching at least 30-40 km. Fault motion, where measurable, has been normal, commonly with a right-lateral component. Some faults displace alluvium and dated Plio-Quaternary non-explosive lava domes and flows, intermediate in composition, with throws of 1-100 m, whereas other faults do not affect overlying volcanics. Previous studies in the surrounding southern Puna have reported Pliocene-Quaternary NNW-SSE extension along N-S to NNE-SSW striking right-slip faults commonly associated with volumetrically-minor mafic monogenetic cinder cones and flows. Explosive eruptions with intermediate compositions have also characterized the southern Puna during the Pliocene-Quaternary. Volcanics erupted during this time period in the Cordillera de San Buenaventura lack both mafic and explosive tendencies. The new data, combined with existing data, suggest that the Cordillera de San Buenaventura overlies a shallow magma chamber, which thermally weakened the upper crust and promoted the growth of the observed ENE-WSW striking normal and oblique-slip faults during the Pliocene-Quaternary. The new faults created right-stepping extensional transfers by linking preexisting NNE-SSW striking right-slip faults. Decreased horizontal stress at these transfers facilitated magma ascent from the underlying chamber. Periodic breaches of the magma chamber cupola by slip on faults prevented magmatic fluid accumulation and explosive eruptions. Mafic magma ascending beneath the Cordillera de San Buenaventura pooled in the shallow magma chamber, where it assimilated silica-rich crustal material and differentiated, eventually reaching the surface with an intermediate composition. In surrounding areas, where no shallow magma chamber existed, rising magmas reached the surface with mafic compositions. The high topography of the Cordillera de San Buenaventura may be the combined effect of mechanical doming by the shallow magma chamber, thermal uplift, isostatic elevation of an extensional transfer block, and local accumulation of Plio-Quaternary volcanics

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