Abstract

The stable isotope composition of pedogenic and early diagenetic carbonates from the Oiyug Basin of southern Tibet allows model estimates of the paleoaltimetry of the Tibetan Plateau for the middle Miocene. Pedogenic calcium carbonate nodules have average δ18Occ values of −19.6‰, whereas nodular lacustrine dolomites range in composition from −7.6‰ to −5.5‰. The most negative of the carbonate isotope values can be used to constrain the oxygen isotope composition of paleoprecipitation, from which model estimates of paleoaltimetry can be made. Model results indicate that the southern Tibetan Plateau achieved elevations of ∼5200 +1370/−605 m by at least 15 Ma. Our results are identical within uncertainty to previous workers' paleoelevation estimates based on Oiyug Basin fossil floral physiognomy. This is the first time that two paleoaltimeters have been directly compared and are in accord. Collectively, these data strongly support tectonic models in which thickening of mantle lithosphere beneath the domain of crustal thickening and subsequent detachment of the mantle lithosphere plays an indiscernible role in the elevation history of this part of the Himalaya-Tibet orogenic system.

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