How does plate tectonics produce mountains? TANGO aims to study how the Andes in South America were formed.
Continental mountain belts form Earth’s highest topography and they play a major role in global atmospheric and oceanic processes, chemistry, and evolution; biosystems are directly controlled by orogenic belts. Nevertheless, one of the outstanding scientific questions remains: how does plate tectonics produce mountains? PIs in the Department of Geosciences, along with collaborators, have been funded for Collaborative Research: TransAndean Great Orogeny, or TANGO for short, by the NSF Frontier Research in Earth Science program (~$3M).
TANGO is a project to study how the Andes in South America formed and produce an integrated and diverse Earth systems (mantle-lithosphere-surface) 3D model of mountain building based on the Andes as a natural laboratory. This interdisciplinary project, led by Susan Beck and Barbara Carrapa from the Department of Geoscience at the University of Arizona, will produce a comprehensive time-space framework linking processes and mechanisms controlling the architecture and morphology of the Andes from the surface to the lower mantle at depths >1200 km in the Earth. The project has an ambitious field component where faculty and students will collect geologic and seismic data across the rugged high elevations of the Andes in Chile and Argentina to constrain the tectonic evolution through time and to image the structure of the crust and mantle at an unprecedented resolution.
This collaboration, with Northern Arizona University, University of Rochester, University Chile, the National University of San Juan, Argentina, and others, in one of the most active mountain belts on Earth, will advance our understanding of how mountains form and evolve. It will also provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduates students to engage in fieldwork in one of the most spectacular mountain belts on Earth and push forward new and exciting efforts in tectonics and seismology.