Erosion history of the Tibetan Plateau since the last interglacial: Constraints from the first studies of cosmogenic 10Be from Tibetan bedrock

Devendra Lal, Nigel B.W. Harris, Kewal K. Sharma, Zhaoyan Gu, L. Ding, Tungsheng Liu, Weiquan Dong, Marc W. Caffee, A. J.T. Jull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The cosmogenic 10Be exposure histories of in situ bedrock surfaces from the Tibetan Plateau indicate low erosion rates of <30 mm/ka in southern and central Tibet during the last interglacial-glacial cycle that contrast strongly with unusually rapid erosion rates (60-2000 mm/ka) for Kunlun in northern Tibet during the Holocene, comparable with published values from the Himalaya. By comparing apatite fission-track ages with cosmogenic data, erosion rates in southern Tibet appear to be decelerating since the Miocene, whereas in the Kunlun, erosion rates have accelerated over the same timescale. Such secular changes suggest that the southern and central regions of the plateau had formed their present flat relief by the Pleistocene. Unusually high erosion rates along the northern margin of the plateau may reflect intense tectonic activity during the Holocene. These findings indicate that over much of the high plateau erosion rates are exceptionally low, and therefore the sources of detritus carried by the great Asian rivers that rise in Tibet lie overwhelmingly in bedrocks at lower altitudes. This study illustrates the potential of cosmogenic studies for unraveling the most recent phase of the erosion/exhumation history of orogenic belts that cannot be resolved by either Ar-isotope or fission-track thermochronometers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Cosmochronology
  • Erosion
  • Tectonics
  • Tibetan Plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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