Large-scale topographic analyses show that hemisphere-scale climate variations are a first-order control on the morphology of the Andes. Zonal atmospheric circulation in the Southern Hemisphere creates strong latitudinal precipitation gradients that, when incorporated in a generalized index of erosion intensity, predict strong gradients in erosion rates both along and across the Andes. Cross-range asymmetry, width, hypsometry, and maximum elevation reflect gradients in both the erosion index and the relative dominance of fluvial, glacial, and tectonic processes, and show that major morphologic features correlate with climatic regimes. Latitudinal gradients in inferred crustal thickening and structural shortening correspond to variations in predicted erosion potential, indicating that, like tectonics, nonuniform erosion due to large-scale climate patterns is a first-order control on the topographic evolution of the Andes.

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