Sedimentary rocks in Tibetan Plateau basins archive the spatiotemporal patterns of deformation, erosion, and associated climate change that resulted from Cenozoic continental collision. Despite growing understanding of basin development in northeastern Tibet during initial India-Asia collision, as well as in the late Miocene–Holocene, surprisingly little is known about the intervening period: a time when the plateau may have undergone fundamental tectonic changes. To fill this gap, we present new magnetostratigraphy from a >2300-m-thick fluviolacustrine succession that spans ca. 30–9.3 Ma. An integrated analysis of sedimentology, subsidence, and provenance from this section reveals the sequential, pulsed erosion of multiple ranges bordering the Xunhua Basin. Emergence of the WNW-trending Laji Shan is highlighted by a doubling of sediment accumulation rates between 24 and 21 Ma and a transition to coarse alluvial facies at 20.3 Ma. Detrital zircon U/Pb age spectra show that these coarse sediments came from basement terranes within the Laji Shan. Together these observations suggest accelerated growth of the Laji Shan and its coupled foreland basin at ca. 22 Ma. The most rapid accumulation rates in Xunhua Basin occur within the finest-grained strata and suggest an underfilled basin during the fastest interval of Laji Shan deformation. Growth of the Laji Shan occurred northward of the contemporaneous plateau margin, which had been defined since ca. 45–50 Ma by the West Qinling, lying ∼60 km farther south. Hence, following ∼20–25 m.y. of apparent stability, the deformation front in this region jumped ∼60 km to the north at ca. 22 Ma. Subsequently, growth of the north-trending Jishi Shan occurred at ca. 13 Ma and is highlighted by an acceleration in Xunhua Basin accumulation rates between 12 and 9 Ma, as well as by a significant change in detrital zircon provenance of nearby Linxia Basin deposits by 11.5 Ma. Initial growth of the WNW-trending Laji Shan in the early Miocene and subsequent growth of the north-trending Jishi Shan ∼10 m.y. later support interpretations of a middle Miocene kinematic reorganization in northeastern Tibet.

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