The large-scale surface uplift in the Altiplano-Puna region of Bolivia: A parametric study of source characteristics and crustal rheology using finite element analysis

James Hickey*, Joachim Gottsmann, Rodrigo del Potro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This paper focuses on the driving mechanism behind a 70 km wide region of ground uplift centered on Uturuncu volcano, in the Altiplano-Puna region of southern Bolivia. We present a series of forward models using finite element analysis to simultaneously test for first-order parameters that help constrain a viable model for the observed maximum line of sight uplift rate of 1-2 cm/yr between 1992 and 2006. Stresses from pressure sources with finite geometries are solved numerically, accounting for both homogeneous and heterogeneous mechanical rock properties in elastic and viscoelastic rheologies. Crustal heterogeneity is constrained by seismic velocity data that indicate the presence of a large low-velocity zone, the Altiplano-Puna magma body, at depths of similar to 17 km below the surface. A viscoelastic rheology is employed to account for time-dependent deformation and an inelastic crust. Comparing homogeneous and heterogeneous models demonstrates the significant impact of a mechanically weak, source-depth layer, which alters surface displacement patterns by buffering subsurface deformation. Elastic model results guide the source parameters tested in the viscoelastic models and demonstrate a range of possible causative source geometries. Our preferred model suggests that pressurization of a magma source extending upward from the Altiplano-Puna magma body is causing the observed surface uplift and alludes to a continued increase in this pressure to explain both the spatial and temporal patterns. We also demonstrate how a pressure-time function plays a first-order role in explaining the observed temporal deformation pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-555
Number of pages16
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Published by AGU, in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, Vol. 14, 540-555, March 2013, DOI: 10.1002/ggge.20057


  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Uturuncu
  • ground deformation
  • crustal mechanics
  • volcanic unrest

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