Abstract

A spatially distributed rate-of-erosion index (EI) based on models of bedrock river incision documents a strong spatial correspondence between areas of high erosion potential and young metamorphic massifs as well as structural highs throughout the Himalayas. The EI is derived from slopes and drainage areas calculated from a hydrologically corrected digital elevation model (GTOPO30) combined with precipitation data (IIASA) to generate synthetic annual stream discharges. These variables drive three generalized process models to produce EI maps that, while differing in detail, provide an internally consistent, spatially continuous index of large-scale erosion rates. The large spatial variation in potential erosion rates in the Himalayas suggested by the EI patterns contrasts with the uniform convergence of the Indian subcontinent. If these EI gradients persist through time, they support the emerging view of a positive feedback between localized, rapid erosion and upward advection of lower crust.

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