Abstract

The Atacama Planation Surface is an extensive west-dipping surface developed between 16°S and 27°S along the Pacific margin of South America. It is considered to have formed between 16 and 7.5 Ma and to have important chronostratigraphic significance. Here we present new cosmogenic 3He exposure dates of boulders on the planation surface using pyroxene and amphibole. Exposure ages display good within- and between-site consistency and range from 22 to 1.2 Ma, with ages of ca. 14.6, 7, and 3 Ma recurring at more than one site on the planation surface. The 14.6 Ma peak records the cessation of the main period of planation surface development, but, contrary to popular opinion, the younger ages reflect subsequent modification of the planation surface by alluvial activity. Comparison with other climate proxies for western South America suggests that since 14.6 Ma, a predominantly hyperarid climate, interspersed with short-lived phases of more intense runoff driven by global climate change, has prevailed. The longevity and composite nature of the Atacama Planation Surface suggest that regionally extensive planation surfaces may have a multiphase history, are unlikely to have any chronostratigraphic significance, and cannot be used to reconstruct uplift histories.

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