Abstract

Geodetic and seismologic studies support a tectonic model for the central Himalaya wherein ∼2 cm/yr of Indo-Asian convergence is accommodated along the primary décollement under the range, the Main Himalayan thrust. A steeper midcrustal ramp in the Main Himalayan thrust is commonly invoked as driving rapid rock uplift along a range-parallel band in the Greater Himalaya. This tectonic model, developed primarily from studies in central Nepal, is commonly assumed to project along strike with little lateral variation in Main Himalayan thrust geometry or associated rock uplift patterns. Here, we synthesize multiple lines of evidence for a major discontinuity in the Main Himalayan thrust in western Nepal. Analysis of topography and seismicity indicates that west of ∼82.5°E, the single band of steep topography and seismicity along the Main Himalayan thrust ramp in central Nepal bifurcates around a high-elevation, low-relief landscape, resulting in a two-step topographic front along an ∼150 km segment of the central Himalaya. Although multiple models could explain this bifurcation, the full suite of data appears to be most consistent with a northward bend to the Main Himalayan thrust ramp and activation of a young duplex horse to the south. This poorly documented segmentation of the Main Himalayan thrust has important implications for the seismogenic potential of the western Nepal seismic gap and for models of the ongoing evolution of the orogen.

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