Sedimentary basins are defined by extensional tectonics. Rugged mountain ranges stand in stark relief adjacent to muted structural basins filled with sediment. In simplest terms, this topography is the result of ranges uplifted along normal faults, and this uplift drives erosion within upland drainages, shedding sediment into subsiding basins. In southeastern Arizona's Basin and Range province extensional tectonics waned at approximately 3-5 Myr, and the region's structural basins began transitioning from internal to external drainage, forming the modern Gila River fluvial network. In the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, some basins of the Central Depression remain internally drained while others have integrated to the Pacific Ocean. In northern Chile, rates of landscape evolution are some of the slowest on Earth due to the region's hyperarid climate. While the magnitude of upland erosion driven by extensional tectonics is largely recorded in the stratigraphy of the structural basins, the landscape's response to post-tectonic forcings is unknown.
I employ the full suite of modern geomorphic tools provided by terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides - surface exposure dating, conventional burial dating, isochron burial dating, quantifying millennial-scale upland erosion rates using detrital TCN, quantifying paleo-erosion rates using multiple TCN such as Ne-21/Be-10 and Al-26l/Be-10, and assessing sediment recycling and complex exposure using multiple TCN - to quantify the rates of landscape evolution in southeastern Arizona and northern Chile during the Late Cenozoic. In Arizona, I also use modern remnants of the pre-incision landscape and digital terrain analyses to reconstruct the landscape, allowing the quantification of incision and erosion rates that supplement detrital TCN-derived erosion rates. A new chronology for key basin high stand remnants (Frye Mesa) and a flight of Gila River terraces in Safford basin provides a record of incision rates from the Pliocene through the Quaternary, and I assess how significantly regional incision is driving erosion rates. Paired nuclide analyses in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile reveal complex exposure histories resulting from several rounds of transport and burial by fluvial systems. These results support a growing understanding that geomorphic processes in the Atacama Desert are more active than previously thought despite the region's hyperarid climate.