Reconstruction of Cretaceous geological evolution of Tibetan Plateau growth is critical for assessing the effect of India-Asia collision on the formation of its high elevation. However, Cretaceous topographic evolution and geodynamic mechanism in northern Lhasa remain ambiguous. Here we present results from sedimentology, zircon U-Pb ages, and detrital Cr-spinel composition of the Tangza Formation in the western part of northern Lhasa. Sedimentary lithofacies document that orbitolinid foraminifera−limestone beds were deposited in a shallow-marine setting, while clastic rocks accumulated in an alluvial fan during the middle Cretaceous. Zircon U-Pb ages of interbedded volcanic rocks place a robust constraint on the initiation of clastic rock deposition at ca. 106 Ma. Sandstones are enriched lithic fragments with abundant volcanic grains. U-Pb ages of detrital zircon display a prominent age population at 101−130 Ma with a 120 Ma peak. These data indicate that the clastic rocks were mainly derived from northern Lhasa, including an Early Cretaceous magmatic arc. Sedimentary and provenance characteristics are most consistent with deposition in a local foreland basin. The activation of south-vergent local thrusting may be responsible for loading of the Tangza foreland basin. This thrust faulting may be associated with crustal shortening induced by the continuous convergence of Lhasa and Qiangtang since collision initiated during the Early Cretaceous. The initial uplift of western and central parts of northern Lhasa and eastern Gangdese arc occurred at ca. 106 Ma, while the widespread uplift of northern and central Lhasa probably initiated at ca. 92 Ma. The mid−Late Cretaceous uplift in Lhasa was significantly earlier than the early Cenozoic India-Asia collision.

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