High-flux pulses of magmatism that make up most of the exposed North American Cordilleran arcs are derived primarily from upper plate lithospheric source materials, and not the mantle wedge as most models would predict, based on a compilation of thousands of previously published Sr, Nd, and O isotopic data. Mass balance calculations show that no more than 50% of that mass can be mantle-derived. Flare-ups must have fundamentally developed simultaneously with crustal/lithospheric thickening, thus implying a connection. Subduction erosion from the trench side, and retroarc shortening from the foreland side are the main tectonic shortening processes that operate in conjunction with high flux magmatism during subduction, and therefore are likely triggers for flare-up events in arc. These arcs represent the sites of crustal differentiation, and thus contribute to net continental growth, only if dense residual lower crust was returned to the convective mantle. Isotopic data shown here suggest that if convective removal of batholithic roots takes place, it must be a consequence and not a cause of episodic flare-ups. The Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex in South America may be the most recent continental arc segment in flare-up mode.