skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on July 29, 2024

Title: Erosion‐Driven Isostatic Flow and Crustal Diapirism: Analytical and Numerical Models With Implications for the Evolution of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis, Southern Tibet
Abstract

The Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis (EHS) is one of the fastest exhuming regions on Earth since ∼10 Ma, and the mechanism of its fast exhumation is under debate. Different from many other studies based on tectonics‐driven models, we performed analytical analysis and numerical simulations to investigate an erosion‐driven system. Our results show that fast and focused surface erosion alone is able to exhume the lower crust on the timescale of ∼10 Myr. This process leads to the formation of a domal structure, an elevated geothermal gradient, rapid cooling of crustal rocks, and decompression melting in the lower crust. In the upper‐mid crust, the uplift of crustal rocks is caused by isostatic flow driven by pressure gradient, whose rate is limited by the driving erosional forcing. In the mid‐lower crust where decompression melting occurs, rocks entrained in a buoyant diapir experience fast uplift rate exceeding the erosional forcing. Our erosion‐driven model demonstrates an intricate coupling between surface erosion and crustal processes. Positive feedback between surface erosion and rock uplift is possible under certain conditions and crustal diapirism plays a key role in the feedback. Our study shows that both isostatic and diapiric flows play important roles in the uplift and exhumation of crustal rocks in the EHS. We highlight that erosion‐driven crustal diapirism can be one of the missing pieces explaining the evolution of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
2221618
NSF-PAR ID:
10442263
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Tectonics
Volume:
42
Issue:
8
ISSN:
0278-7407
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    The Acadian and Neoacadian orogenies are widely recognized, yet poorly understood, tectono-thermal events in the New England Appalachian Mountains (USA). We quantified two phases of Paleozoic crustal thickening using geochemical proxies. Acadian (425–400 Ma) crustal thickening to 40 km progressed from southeast to northwest. Neoacadian (400–380 Ma) crustal thickening was widely distributed and varied by 30 km (40–70 km) from north to south. Doubly thickened crust and paleoelevations of 5 km or more support the presence of an orogenic plateau at ca. 380–330 Ma in southern New England. Neoacadian crustal thicknesses show a strong correlation with metamorphic isograds, where higher metamorphic grade corresponds to greater paleo-crustal thickness. We suggest that the present metamorphic field gradient was exposed through erosion and orogenic collapse influenced by thermal, isostatic, and gravitational properties related to Neoacadian crustal thickness. Geobarometry in southern New England underestimates crustal thickness and exhumation, suggesting the crust was thinned by tectonic as well as erosional processes. 
    more » « less
  2. The formation of continental crust in magmatic arcs involves cooling of hot magmas to a relatively colder crust enhanced by exhumation and hydrothermal circulation in the upper crust. To quantify the influence of these processes on the thermal and rheological states of the crust, we developed a one-dimensional thermal evolution model, which invokes conductive cooling, advection of crust by erosion-driven exhumation, and cooling by hydrothermal circulation. We parameterized hydrothermal cooling by adopting depth-dependent effective thermal conductivity, which is determined by the crustal permeability structure and the prescribed Nusselt number at the surface. Different combinations of erosion rate and Nusselt number were tested to study the evolution of crustal geotherms, surface heat flux, and cooling rate. Simulations and scaling analyses quantify how erosion and hydrothermal circulation promote cooling via increasing total surface heat flux compared to pure conductive cooling. Hydrothermal circulation imposes intense short-term and persistent long-term cooling effects. Thinner, warmer, fast exhuming crust, with higher permeability and more vigorous hydrothermal circulation, leads to higher steady-state total surface heat flux. Hydrothermal cooling at steady state is more effective when the Péclet number is small. Hydrothermal cooling also changes crustal rheological state and thickens the brittle crust. This in turn promotes the initiation of brittle deformation in the upper crust in magmatic arcs or in regions undergoing exhumation. Interpretation of low-temperature thermochronological data could overestimate average cooling rates if hydrothermal cooling is not considered. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The mechanisms driving crustal deformation and uplift of orogenic plateaus are fundamental to continental tectonics. Large‐scale crustal flow has been hypothesized to occur in eastern Tibet, but it remains controversial due to a lack of geologic evidence. Geochemical and isotopic data from Cenozoic igneous rocks in the eastern Tibet‐Gongga‐Zheduo intrusive massif, provide a way to test this model. Modeling results suggest that Cenozoic magmas originated at depths of ∼30–40 km, the depth that crustal flow has been postulated to occur at. Detailed isotopic analyses indicate that the igneous rocks are derived from partial melting of the local Songpan‐Ganzi crust, arguing against a long‐distance crustal flow. Episodic magmatism during the Cenozoic showing a repeated shifting of magmatic sources can be correlated with crustal uplift. The continued indentation of the Indian Block and upwelling of the asthenosphere contribute to the crustal deformation, magmatism, and uplift.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Ultrahigh‐pressure (UHP) rocks in North‐East Greenland lie within a larger region of high‐pressure Laurentian crust formed in the overthickened upper plate of the collision with Baltica. Coesite‐bearing zircon dates UHP metamorphism to 365–350 Ma, which formed at the end of the Caledonian collision as a result of intracontinental subduction facilitated by strike‐slip faults that broke the lithosphere. Rutile is the stable Ti‐bearing phase at UHP, while titanite forms on the retrograde path. Trace elements and U‐Pb in titanite were analyzed for six UHP gneisses. Zr‐in‐titanite temperatures range from 764 to 803°C and lie on the isobaric part of the pressure‐temperature path at 1.2 GPa, which fits Ti‐phase stability determined by thermodynamic modeling. Large (>600 μm), zoned titanite preserves three distinct trace element patterns that are due to metamorphism, melting and garnet breakdown. Weighted mean206Pb/238U ages range from 347 ± 5 Ma to 320 ± 11 Ma, but age variation as a function of trace element domain for individual samples is not resolvable within uncertainty. Titanite records a prolonged period of exhumation that is also seen in the zircon record, where phengite decompression melting started at ca. 347 Ma, leucosome emplacement accompanied retrograde metamorphism from 350 to 330 Ma; and titanite grew during isobaric cooling from 345 to 320 Ma when the UHP rocks stalled at lower crustal levels. The same transforms that originally break the lithosphere play a significant role in channeling the UHP rocks back to the lower crust via buoyancy driven exhumation, after which time titanite formed.

     
    more » « less
  5. The Himalaya is known for dramatically rugged landscapes including the highest mountains in the world. However, there is a limited understanding of the timing of attainment of high elevation and relief formation, especially in the Nepalese Himalaya. Anomalous high-elevation low-relief (HELR) surfaces, which exhibit geomorphic antiquity and are possibly remnants of formerly widespread high-elevation paleosurfaces, provide a unique opportunity to assess the attainment of regional high elevation in the Himalaya. The Bhumichula plateau is one such HELR surface (4300−4800 m) in the western Nepalese Himalayan fold-thrust belt. The Bhumichula plateau is situated in the Dadeldhura klippe (also called the Karnali klippe), an outlier of Greater Himalayan Sequence high-grade metasedimentary/igneous rocks surrounded by structurally underlying Lesser Himalayan Sequence low-grade metasedimentary rocks. We assess the origin of the Bhumichula plateau by combining regional geological relationships and zircon and apatite (U-Th-Sm)/He and apatite fission track thermochronologic ages. The HELR surface truncates pervasive west-southwestward dipping foliations, indicating that it post-dates tilting of rocks in the hanging wall of the Main Central thrust above the Lesser Himalayan duplex. This suggests that the surface originated at high elevation by erosional beveling of thickened, uplifted crust. Exhumation through the ∼180−60 °C thermal window occurred during middle Miocene for samples on the plateau and between middle and late Miocene for rocks along the Tila River, which bounds the north flank of the Bhumichula plateau. Cooling ages along the Tila River are consistent with erosional exhumation generated by early Miocene emplacement of the Main Central (Dadeldhura) thrust sheet, middle Miocene Ramgarh thrust emplacement, and late Miocene growth of the Lesser Himalayan duplex. The most recent middle-late Miocene exhumation took place as the Tila River and its northward flowing tributaries incised upstream, such that the Bhumichula plateau is a remnant of a more extensive HELR paleolandscape. Alpine glaciation lowered relief on the Bhumichula surface, and surface preservation may owe to its relatively durable lithology, gentle structural relief, and elevation range that is above the rainier Lesser Himalaya.

     
    more » « less