Off-campus Michigan Tech users: To download campus access theses or dissertations, please use the following button to log in with your Michigan Tech ID and password: log in to proxy server

Non-Michigan Tech users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis or dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

First Advisor

Gregory P Waite


Alessandro Tibaldi


Understanding the geometry and kinematics of the major structures of an orogen is important to elucidate its style of deformation, as well as its tectonic evolution. We describe the temporal and spatial changes in the state of stress of the trans-orogen area of the Calama-Olacapato-El Toro (COT) Fault Zone in the Central Andes, at about 24°S within the northern portion of the Puna Plateau between the Argentina-Chile border. The importance of the COT derives principally from the Quaternary-Holocene activity recognized on some segments, which may shed new light on its possible control on Quaternary volcanism and on the seismic hazard evaluation of the area.

Field geological surveys along with kinematic analysis and numerical inversion of ∼140 new fault-slip measurements have revealed that this portion of the COT zone, previously considered a continuous, long-lived lineament, in reality has been subjected to three different kinematic regimes: 1) a Miocene transpressional phase with the maximum principal stress (σ1) chiefly trending NNE-SSW; 2) an extensional phase that started by 9 Ma, with a horizontal NW-SE-striking minimum principal stress (σ3) – permutations between σ2 and σ3 axes have been recognized at two sites – and 3) a left-lateral strike-slip phase with a horizontal ∼E-W &sigma1 and ∼N-S σ3 dating to the Late Pliocene-Quaternary. Spatially, in the Quaternary, the left-lateral component decreases toward the westernmost tip of the COT, where it transitions to extension; this produced to a N-S horst and graben structure. Hence, even if transcurrence is still active in the eastern portion of the COT, as focal mechanisms of crustal earthquakes indicate, our study demonstrates that extension is becoming the predominant structural style of deformation, at least in the western region. These major temporal and spatial changes in the tectonic regimes are attributed in part to changes in the magnitude of the boundary forces due to subduction processes. The overall orogen-perpendicular extension might be the result of vertical stress larger than both the horizontal stresses induced by gravitational effect of a thickened crust.