This is an ambitious project that has the potential to fill in important gaps in the overall picture of orogenesis in the central Andes, and of convergent-margin tectonism in general. The project is constructed around a well defined basic-science question, did the Andes rise in a rapid pulse, or did they rise gradually? Producing elevations and crustal thicknesses of the magnitude found in this study area remains a key problem in continental tectonics.
This question provides a foundation from which the PIs develop a variety of linked projects, including: 3-D structural analysis of fold-thrust belt shortening in the Andes, testing of new methods of paleo-elevation analysis, use of seismic studies to characterize the roots of the range (both in the deep crust and in the underlying mantle), creative use of petrologic and isotopic data to constrain thickened crust at times in the past. The project has the potential to address 3-D mass balance issues during orogeny, as well as the impact of a rising mountain belt on continent-scale weather systems. Of note, to put the analysis of orographic weather studies in context, the PIs will also undertake a broader paleo-climate study. All of the questions to be studied are current and important, and are of interest across traditional disciplinary boundaries and, the research strategy as outlined has a high potential to answer the questions that it poses.