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The character and distribution of cooling ages in modern river sediment provide useful constraints on rates and patterns of uplift and erosion within actively deforming mountain ranges. Such sediment effectively samples all locations within the catchment area, irrespective of remoteness. We evaluate how successfully detrital cooling ages may be used to constrain hinterland erosion rates by examining the modern catchment of the Marsyandi River in central Nepal. Over the 100–200-km-length scale of the catchment, laser fusion 40Ar/39Ar data for detrital muscovite collected from 12 separate sites illustrate the downstream development of a detrital cooling-age signal that is both systematic and representative of the contributing area. Comparisons of paired samples indicate that, at short spatial (tens of meters) and temporal (hundreds of years) scales, the detrital cooling-age signal is consistent. The distribution of bedrock cooling ages in a subcatchment and the resulting detrital signal at the catchment mouth can be modeled as a function of the erosion rate, relief, hypsometry, catchment area, and muscovite distribution. Given that independent constraints are available for most of these variables, the detrital age signal should be a robust indication of the spatially averaged erosion rate. In the Marsyandi, our model predicts erosion rate differences of approximately twofold, with higher rates (>2 mm/yr) along the southern topographic front of the Himalaya.

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