The Challenger Juan Fernández Maipo major tectonic transition of the Nazca Andean subduction system at 33 34°S: geodynamic evidence and implications
The late Tertiary tectonic and geological evolution of the Southern Andes at 33-34°S has been strongly controlled by the Challenger-Juan Fernández-Maipo (CH-JF-M) structural system. The present configuration of a flat slab between 28-33°S may be explained by a series of favorable conditions evolving with time since the breakup of the Farallon Plate at 25 Ma. The dramatic shift of the pole of rotation and the rapid eastward propagating rift along the Challenger Fracture Zone induced an unbalanced slab pull force, south of the CH-JF-M, that may have triggered the detachment of the subducting slab. The upwelling of a warmer asthenospheric material and the partial melts of the slab are likely consequences that are consistent with the anhydrous tholeiitic late Oligocene volcanism and the anomalous adakite-type magmatism of the early Miocene, respectively. The present seismogenic zone across the CH-JF-M tectonic boundary shows a continuity for more than 600 km along the flat slab segment, in contrast with the much shorter slab southward. Such a tectonic configuration is probably a quasi-steady condition since 25 Ma. Gravity modeling along the JF chain and the broadly located focal mechanisms at the locus of the already subducted JF chain indicate a thick (>25 km), wide (100 km), and continuous belt of lighter oceanic crust, which is the major contribution to the positive buoyancy of the slab. The decoupling of the subducted slab at intermediate depths further contributes to the flattening of the slab, focusing the buoyancy forces associated with the thickened oceanic crust along the already subducted JF chain. The absolute plate reconstruction during the Miocene shows that the JF collision against the margin migrates southward, in agreement with geological and tectonic observations that further support the causative relationship between the flattening of the slab and the subduction of the JF chain. Preliminary deformation models for the indentation of the JF ridge against the continental lithosphere is consistent with the particular east-west trend of the Maipo deformation zone, connecting in this way the CH-JF-M major tectonic boundary in the ocean-continent lithosphere system.