A Cenozoic uplift history of Mexico and its surroundings from longitudinal river profiles

12 Sep 2017

Geodynamic models of mantle convection predict that Mexico and western North America share a history of dynamic support. We calculate admittance between gravity and topography, which indicates that the elastic thickness of the plate in Mexico is 11 km and in western North America it is 12 km. Admittance at wavelengths > 500 km in these regions suggests that topography is partly supported by subcrustal processes. These results corroborate estimates of residual topography from isostatic calculations and suggest that the amount of North American topography supported by the mantle may exceed 1 km. The Cenozoic history of magmatism, sedimentary flux, thermochronometric denudation estimates, and uplifted marine terraces imply that North American lithosphere was uplifted and eroded during the last 30 Ma. We jointly invert 533 Mexican and North American longitudinal river profiles to reconstruct a continent-scale rock uplift rate history. Uplift rate is permitted to vary in space and time. Erosional parameters are calibrated using incision rate data in southwest Mexico and the Colorado Plateau. Calculated rock uplift rates were 0.15-0.2 mm/yr between 25 and 10 Ma. Central Mexico experienced the highest uplift rates. Central and southern Mexico continued to uplift at 0.1 mm/yr until recent times. This uplift history is corroborated by independent constraints. We predict clastic flux to the Gulf of Mexico and compare it to independent estimates. We tentatively suggest that the loop between uplift, erosion, and deposition can be closed here. Mexico’s staged uplift history suggests that its dynamic support has changed during the last 30 Ma.