04 Apr 2024
 | 04 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Landscape response to tectonic deformation and cyclic climate change since ca. 800 ka in the southern Central Andes

Elizabeth Orr, Taylor Schildgen, Stefanie Tofelde, Hella Wittmann, and Ricardo Alonso

Abstract. Theory suggests that the response time of alluvial channel long-profiles to perturbations in climate is related to the magnitude of the forcing and the length of the system. Shorter systems may record a higher frequency of forcing compared to longer systems. Empirical field evidence that system length plays a role in the climate periodicity preserved within the sedimentary record is, however, sparse. The Toro Basin in the Eastern Cordillera of NW Argentina provides an opportunity to test these theoretical relationships as this single source-to-sink system contains a range of sediment deposits, located at varying distances from the source. A suite of eight alluvial fan deposits is preserved along the western flanks of the Sierra de Pascha. Farther downstream, a flight of cut-and-fill terraces have been linked to eccentricity-driven (100-kyr) climate cycles since ca. 500 ka. We applied cosmogenic radionuclide (10Be) exposure dating to the fan surfaces to explore (1) how channel responses to external perturbations may or may not propagate downstream, and (2) the differences in landscape response to forcing frequency as a function of channel length. We identified two generations of fan surfaces: the first (G1) records surface activity and abandonment between ca. 800 and 500 ka and the second (G2) within the last 100 kyr. G1 fans record a prolonged phase of net incision, which has been recognised throughout the Central Andes, and was likely triggered by enhanced 100-kyr global glacial cycles following the Mid-Pleistocene Transition. Relative fan surface stability followed, while 100-kyr cut-and-fill cycles occurred downstream, suggesting a disconnect in behaviour between the two channel reaches. G2 fans record higher frequency climate forcing, possibly the result of precessional forcing of climate (ca. 21/40-kyr timescales). The lack of a high-frequency signal farther downstream provides field support for theoretical predictions of a filtering of high-frequency climate forcing with increasing channel length. We show that multiple climate periodicities can be preserved within the sedimentary record of a single basin. Differences in the timing of alluvial fan and fluvial terrace development in the Toro Basin appears to be associated with how channel length affects fluvial response times to climate forcing as well as local controls on net incision, such as tectonic deformation.

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Elizabeth Orr, Taylor Schildgen, Stefanie Tofelde, Hella Wittmann, and Ricardo Alonso

Status: open (until 04 Jun 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-784', Burch Fisher, 03 May 2024 reply
Elizabeth Orr, Taylor Schildgen, Stefanie Tofelde, Hella Wittmann, and Ricardo Alonso
Elizabeth Orr, Taylor Schildgen, Stefanie Tofelde, Hella Wittmann, and Ricardo Alonso


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Short summary
Fluvial terraces and alluvial fans in the Toro Basin, NW Argentina record river evolution and global climate cycles over time. Landform dating reveals lower-frequency climate cycles (100-kyr) preserved downstream and higher-frequency cycles (21/40-kyr) upstream, supporting theoretical predications that longer rivers filter out higher-frequency climate signals. This finding improves our understanding of the spatial distribution of sedimentary paleoclimate records within landscapes.