Abstract

40Ar/39Ar ages from detrital muscovites have been analyzed from six modern rivers in central and western Nepal; the size of the drainage basins associated with these samples ranges from a few square kilometers to >40,000 km2. These data, when combined with previously published ages of detrital muscovites from other modern rivers in the region, suggest that a good correspondence between normalized age and normalized topography (the comparison of t* and z*) is rare, due to either nonuniform rates of passage through the ∼400 °C isotherm or subsequent faulting in the drainage area. The closure temperature of Ar in muscovite is perhaps too high to make meaningful comparisons to modern topography in tectonic analysis of active orogens.

The distribution of 40Ar/39Ar ages from detrital muscovites from the Karnali basin in western Nepal is much older than that for the Narayani basin in central Nepal. The Karnali muscovites, when combined with previously published muscovites from the Siwalik Group in western Nepal and zircon fission track ages from modern and ancient samples from the region, suggest a thermal history for western Nepal consistent with vigorous tectonics (and attendant erosion) before the middle Miocene but a significant diminution in the rate of erosion since ca. 10 Ma.

40Ar/39Ar ages of detrital muscovites from the Narayani basin in central Nepal suggest a markedly different history with an acceleration of the rate of erosion since ca. 10 Ma and reactivation of major faults; this is consistent with the abundant bedrock data from the Narayani basin.

The strong difference in the erosional history of the adjacent Karnali and Narayani basins, as evidenced by the 40Ar/39Ar ages from detrital muscovites, is not likely to have been due to variations in climate, but rather due to strain partitioning within the Himalaya during and after the Miocene.

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