EGU22-3441, updated on 27 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Quantifying drainage-divide migration from orographic rainfall over geologic timescales: Sierra de Aconquija, southern Central Andes

Taylor Schildgen1,2, Peter van der Beek2, Mitch D'Arcy3, Duna Roda Boluda4, Orr Elizabeth5, and Wittmann Hella1
Taylor Schildgen et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany (
  • 2Institute for Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 5School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Drainage-divide migration, controlled by rock-uplift and rainfall patterns, may play a major role in the geomorphic evolution of mountain ranges. However, divide-migration rates over geologic timescales have only been estimated by theoretical studies and remain empirically poorly constrained. Geomorphological evidence suggests that the Sierra de Aconquija, on the eastern side of the southern Central Andes, northwest Argentina, is undergoing active westward drainage-divide migration. The mountain range has been subjected to steep rock trajectories and pronounced orographic rainfall for the last several million years, presenting an ideal setting for using low-temperature thermochronometric data and exhumation rates derived from in situ produced 10Be to explore its topographic evolution.

We perform three-dimensional thermal-kinematic modeling of previously published thermochronometric data spanning the windward and leeward sides of the range to explore the most likely structural and topographic evolution of the range. We find that the thermochronometric data can be explained by scenarios involving drainage-divide migration alone, or by scenarios that also involve changes in the structures that have accommodated deformation through time. By combining new 10Be-derived catchment-average denudation rates with geomorphic and stratigraphic constraints on fault activity, we conclude that the evolution of the range was likely dominated by west-vergent faulting on a high-angle reverse fault underlying the range, together with westward drainage-divide migration at a rate of several km per million years. Our findings place new constraints on the magnitudes and rates of drainage-divide migration in real landscapes, quantify the effects of orographic rainfall and erosion on the topographic evolution of a mountain range, and highlight the importance of considering drainage-divide migration when interpreting thermochronometer age patterns.

How to cite: Schildgen, T., van der Beek, P., D'Arcy, M., Roda Boluda, D., Elizabeth, O., and Hella, W.: Quantifying drainage-divide migration from orographic rainfall over geologic timescales: Sierra de Aconquija, southern Central Andes, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-3441,, 2022.


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