Abstract

Negative Bouguer anomalies (−80 mgals) near the Pacific coast of southern Colombia define the position of the Tertiary Bolívar trough. Values increase eastward to a huge positive anomaly (+75 mgals) over Mesozoic “eugeosynclinal” rocks of the western Andes. This anomaly is part of the West Colombian gravity high, which extends from Panamá into western Ecuador and is caused by shallow mafic crust. Bouguer anomalies are strongly negative (−220 mgals) over pre-Mesozoic(?) metamorphic rocks, Mesozoic(?) granitic bodies, and Tertiary to Holocene volcanic rocks of the central Andes between Pasto and Ipiales. The steep gravity gradient between the West Colombian gravity high and the negative anomaly of the central Andes represents the transition between mafic crust to the west and continental crust to the east. This zone parallels the Romeral-Cauca megashear system. East of the Andes, Bouguer anomalies range from −50 to −120 mgals over a Mesozoic-Tertiary basin of the Putumayo district, indicating that the crust there is thinner or denser than it is beneath the central Andes.

Models derived from gravity data suggest that the crust is about 45 km thick under the south-central Colombian Andes. If this is correct, the crust must thicken southward along the strike of the Andes, as thicknesses of 70 km have been reported in the Andes of southern Perú, Bolivia, and northern Chile by Lomnitz (1962) and James (1971a). Such differing crustal thicknesses may reflect different intensities of tectonic activity, greater crustal thickness indicating more intense or rapid growth of the volcano-plutonic arc or foreshortening of an existing crustal section.

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