Quantifying canyon incision and Andean Plateau surface uplift, southwest Peru: A thermochronometer and numerical modeling approach

Taylor F. Schildgen, Todd A. Ehlers, David M. Whipp, Matthijs Van Soest, Kelin Whipple, Kip Hodges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


Apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He ages from Ocoña canyon at the western margin of the Central Andean plateau record rock cooling histories induced by a major phase of canyon incision. We quantify the timing and magnitude of incision by integrating previously published ages from the valley bottom with 19 new sample ages from four valley wall transects. Interpretation of the incision history from cooling ages is complicated by a southwest to northeast increase in temperatures at the base of the crust due to subduction and volcanism. Furthermore, the large magnitude of incision leads to additional threedimensional variations in the thermal field. We address these complications with finite element thermal and thermochronometer age prediction models to quantify the range of topographic evolution scenarios consistent with observed cooling ages. Comparison of 275 model simulations to observed cooling ages and regional heat flow determinations identify a best fit history with <0.2 km of incision in the forearc region prior to ∼14 Ma and up to 3.0 km of incision starting between 7 and 11 Ma. Incision starting at 7 Ma requires incision to end by ∼5.5 to 6 Ma. However, a 2.2 Ma age on a volcanic flow on the current valley floor and 5 Ma gravels on the uplifted piedmont surface together suggest that incision ended during the time span between 2.2 and 5 Ma. These additional constraints for incision end time lead to a range of best fit incision onset times between 8 and 11 Ma, which must coincide with or postdate surface uplift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberF04014
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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