Climate change and tectonic uplift triggered the formation of the Atacama Desert's giant nitrate deposits Alida Prez-Fodich et al. (Corresponding author: Martin Reich: firstname.lastname@example.org), Department of Geology, Universidad de Chile, Plaza Ercilla 803, Santiago, Chile, and Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA), Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Posted online 10 January 2014, http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G34969.1.
Nitrogen is abundant in the Earth's atmosphere but is highly depleted in the crust. Therefore, the giant nitrate deposits of the Atacama Desert are one of the most extraordinary, yet enigmatic mineral occurrences on Earth. This world-class, almost continuous ~700-km-long nitrate layer has puzzled researchers from different scientific disciplines since the 1800s, and its origin has remained elusive and highly controversial to this day. By focusing for the first time on the exotic iodine and chromium isotopic signature of the nitrates, we provide conclusive evidence to link the formation of these massive deposits to a unique convergence of large-scale groundwater flow coupled to long-term atmospheric accumulation, triggered by climate change (Atacama's desiccation) and tectonic uplift (rise of the Andes).
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