Scientists at WashU complete first seismic study of Patagonian Andes

Mount Fitz Roy and surrounding peaks as seen during the drive west from the Patagonian desert into the Cordillera, with the details of these monolithic peaks coming into view. (Photo: Ben Tiger)

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, led by seismologist Douglas Wiens, the Robert S. Brookings Distinguished Professor in Arts & ­Sciences, recently completed one of the first seismic studies of the Patagonian Andes. In a new publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, they describe and map out local subsurface dynamics.

The icefields that stretch for hundreds of miles atop the Andes mountain range in Chile and Argentina are melting at some of the fastest rates on the planet. The ground that was beneath this ice is also shifting and rising as these glaciers disappear.

Patagonia is a remote area that is not densely populated, and earthquake hazards are relatively low — which helps explain why few seismic studies have been conducted in this area in the past, Wiens said. The data he and his team collected is already being used for purposes beyond this mantle imaging effort.

Learn more about how the Seismic study reveals key reason why Patagonia is rising as glaciers melt.