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Applications of morphochronology to the active tectonics of Tibet

By
Frederick J. Ryerson
Frederick J. Ryerson
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, 94550 California, USA
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Paul Tapponnier
Paul Tapponnier
Laboratoire de Tectonique, Mécanique de la Lithosphère, UMR7578, CNRS, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 75252 Paris cedex 05, France
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Robert C. Finkel
Robert C. Finkel
Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, 94550 California, USA
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Anne-Sophie Mériaux
Anne-Sophie Mériaux
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, 94550 California, USA
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Jérôme Van der Woerd
Jérôme Van der Woerd
Institut de Physique du Globe de Strasbourg, CNRS-UMR 7516, Strasbourg, France
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Cécile Lasserre
Cécile Lasserre
Département Terre Atmosphère Océan, École Normale Supérieure, 24, rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris cedex 05, France
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Marie-Luce Chevalier
Marie-Luce Chevalier
Laboratoire de Tectonique, Mécanique de la Lithosphère, UMR7578, CNRS, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 75252 Paris cedex 05, France, and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, 94550 California, USA
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Xi-wei Xu
Xi-wei Xu
Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration, Beijing 100029, People's Republic of China
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Hai-bing Li
Hai-bing Li
Laboratory of Continental Dynamics, Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing 100037, People's Republic of China
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Geoffrey C.P. King
Geoffrey C.P. King
Laboratoire de Tectonique, Mécanique de la Lithosphère, UMR7578, CNRS, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 75252 Paris cedex 05, France
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Published:
January 01, 2006

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau were formed as a result of the collision of India and Asia, and provide an excellent opportunity to study the mechanical response of the continental lithosphere to tectonic stress. Geophysicists are divided in their views on the nature of this response, advocating either (1) homogeneously distributed deformation with the lithosphere deforming as a fluid continuum or (2) highly localized deformation with the lithosphere deforming as a system of blocks. The resolution of this issue has broad implications for understanding the tectonic response of continental lithosphere in general. Homogeneous deformation is supported by relatively low decadal, geodetic slip-rate estimates for the Altyn Tagh and Karakorum faults. Localized deformation is supported by high millennial, geomorphic slip rates constrained by both cosmogenic and radiocarbon dating on these faults. Based upon the agreement of rates determined by radiocarbon and cosmogenic dating, the overall linearity of offset versus age correlations, and the plateau-wide correlation of landscape evolution and climate history, the disparity between geomorphic and geodetic slip-rate determinations is unlikely to be due to the effects of surface erosion on the cosmogenic age determinations. Similarly, based upon the consistency of slip rates over various observation intervals, secular variations in slip rate appear to persist no longer than 2000 yr and are unlikely to provide reconciliation. Conversely, geodetic and geomorphic slip-rate estimates on the Kunlun fault, which does not have significant splays or associated thrust faults, are in good agreement, indicating that there is no fundamental reason why these complementary geodetic and geomorphic methods should disagree. Similarly, the geodetic and geomorphic estimates of shortening rates across the northeastern edge of the plateau are in reasonable agreement, and the geomorphic rates on individual thrust faults demonstrate a significant eastward decrease in the shortening rate. This rate decrease is consistent with the transfer of slip from the Altyn Tagh fault to genetically related thrust mountain building at its terminus. Rates on the Altyn Tagh fault suggest a similar decrease in rate, but the current data set is too small to be definitive. Overall, the high, late Pleistocene–Holocene geomorphic slip velocities on the major strike-slip faults of Tibet suggest that these faults absorb as much of India's convergence relative to Siberia as the Himalayan Main Frontal Thrust on the southern edge of the plateau.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

In Situ-Produced Cosmogenic Nuclides and Quantification of Geological Processes

Ana María Alonso-Zarza
Ana María Alonso-Zarza
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Lawrence H. Tanner
Lawrence H. Tanner
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Geological Society of America
Volume
415
ISBN print:
9780813724157
Publication date:
January 01, 2006

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