Abstract

The steep-walled bedrock gorges of the Greater Himalayan rivers currently lack significant stored sediment, suggesting that fluvial erosion and transport capacity outpace the supply of sediment from adjacent hillsides. Despite this appearance of sustained downcutting, such rivers can become choked with sediments and aggrade during intervals of higher precipitation. Cosmogenic dating (10Be and 26Al) of fluvially carved bedrock surfaces indicates that sediment at least 80 m thick filled the Marsyandi River valley in central Nepal during a time of strengthened early Holocene monsoons. Despite threefold differences in height (43–124 m) above the modern river, these fluvial surfaces display strikingly similar cosmogenic exposure ages clustering around 7 ± 1 ka. We speculate that enhanced monsoonal precipitation increased pore pressure and the frequency of landsliding, thereby generating a pulse of hillslope-derived sediment that temporarily overwhelmed this alpine fluvial system's transport capacity. After the easily liberated material was exhausted ca. 7 ka, the hillslope flux dropped, and the river incised through the aggraded alluvium. It concurrently eroded adjacent rock walls, thereby removing previously accumulated 10Be and 26Al and resetting the cosmogenic clock in the bedrock. Unlike previous studies, these exposure ages cannot be used to derive river-incision rates; instead they record a coupled fluvial-hillslope response to climate change.

You do not currently have access to this article.