Abstract

As the continental crust thickens during mountain building, it can become hot enough to start melting, leading to a profound reduction in its strength. Melt-weakened crust can flow outward or upward in response to the pressure gradients associated with mountain building, and may be transported hundreds of kilometres laterally as mid-crustal channels. In the Himalayan–Tibetan system, melting began about 30 million years ago, and widespread granite intrusion began at 20–23 Ma. Geophysical data indicate that melt is present beneath the Tibetan plateau today, and deeply eroded mountain belts preserve evidence for melt-enhanced ductile flow in the past. Flow of partially molten crust may limit the thickness and elevation of mountain belts and has influenced the deep structure of continents.

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