Pulsed exhumation of interior eastern Tibet: Implications for relief generation mechanisms and the origin of high-elevation planation surfaces

Huiping Zhang, Michael E. Oskin, Jing Liu-Zeng, Peizhen Zhang, Peter W. Reiners, Ping Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

River incision into a widespread, upland low-relief landscape, and related patterns of exhumation recorded by low-temperature thermochronology, together underpin geodynamic interpretations for crustal thickening and uplift of the eastern Tibetan Plateau. We report results from a suite of 11 (U–Th–Sm)/He cooling-age samples. Eight samples comprise a 1.2 km relief section collected from elevations up to 4800 m in the Jiulong Shan, an elevated, rugged region located in the hinterland of the Yalong-Longmen Shan Thrust Belt, and surrounded on three sides by upland low-relief landscape surfaces. Zircon and apatite cooling ages record two episodes of rapid exhumation in the early Oligocene and late Miocene, that were separated by a period of stability from ∼30 to 15 Ma. The first episode is consistent with a similar pulse evident from the Longmen Shan. The second episode is ongoing, and when integrated with adjacent cooling-age data sets, shows that doming of the Jiulong Shan has resulted in 2 to 4 km of differential exhumation of the plateau interior. We show from a compilation of glacial landform-mapping that the elevation of the plateau surface closely tracks global last glacial maximum equilibrium line altitude. We hypothesize that smoothing of highlands by efficient glacial and periglacial erosion, coupled with potential river captures and conveyance of sediments via external drainage, can yield an apparently continuous low-relief plateau landscape formed diachronously at high elevation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume449
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Keywords

  • eastern Tibet
  • landscape evolution
  • low-relief surfaces
  • low-temperature thermochronology
  • pulsed exhumation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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