Abstract

The 2500 x 700 km Mongolian plateau (average elevation 2000 m) is situated between the Altai orogen and the Siberian craton and occupies much of Mongolia and Transbaikalia in Russia. The plateau is characterized by (1) basin and range topography and two major domes(Hentai, 600 x 300 km, and Hangai, 800 x 550 km), where altitudes reach 3905 m; (2) lithosphere that is thinner than adjacent areas (minimum ∼50 km); (3) elevated heat flow (up to 120 mW/m2); (4) dominantly alkaline basaltic volcanism in the form of cones, lava fields, and volcanic plateaus mostly of Miocene-Quaternary age, and (5) rifts, including Baikal (main evolution in the Pliocene-Quaternary), Tunka (Oligocene-early Miocene), and Hobsogol (Pliocene-Quaternary). Existing models explain these features in terms of diapiric upwelling of a mantle asthenolith below the main rifts and/or as a long-distance effect of the India-Asia collision. We propose that the late Cenozoic uplift of the whole Mongolian plateau and associated rifting, magmatism, high heat flow, and lithospherec thinning are not externally driven by the India-Asia collision, but are the expression of the interaction of a mantle plume with overlying lithosphere. Some rifts link and interact with major strike-slip faults, such as the Bolnai. Such faults may be the major expression of the India-Asia collision in this region.

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