150 Million Years of Climatic Stability: Evidence from the Atacama Desert, northern Chile. Journal of the Geological Society

Adrian John Hartley, G. Chong, J. Houston, A. E. Mather

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Abstract

The sedimentary succession in the Atacama Desert records deposition under an and to semiarid climate from the late Jurassic (150 Ma) to the present day. Palaeomagnetic data indicate no significant latitudinal movement of this area since the late Jurassic. The present-day location of the Atacama within the dry subtropical climate belt is the principal cause of aridity. This situation is likely to have prevailed since the late Jurassic, supplemented by (1) the continentality effect (enhanced by the Gondwanan landmass), and (2) the presence offshore of a cold, upwelling current (from at least the early Cenozoic onwards and possibly earlier), resulting in conditions promoting climatic stability and desert development. Rapid and extreme climatic fluctuations during the Plio-Pleistocene were not sufficient to destabilize the climate within the Atacama. Comparison with other long-lived deserts (e.g. SW USA, Namib, Sahara and Australia) suggests that the Atacama is the oldest extant desert on Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-424
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the Geological Society
Volume162
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2005

Keywords

  • Atacama
  • Chile
  • Andes
  • palaeoclimatology
  • deserts
  • SALAR-DE-ATACAMA
  • ANDEAN FORE-ARC
  • LAT 22-DEGREES-24-DEGREES-S
  • SOUTH-AMERICA
  • MYR AGO
  • RECORD
  • BASIN
  • DESERTIFICATION
  • PALEOGEOGRAPHY
  • PALEOMAGNETISM

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