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  1. Abstract

    The principal nature-based solution for offsetting relative sea-level rise in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta is the unabated delivery, dispersal, and deposition of the rivers’ ~1 billion-tonne annual sediment load. Recent hydrological transport modeling suggests that strengthening monsoon precipitation in the 21st century could increase this sediment delivery 34-60%; yet other studies demonstrate that sediment could decline 15-80% if planned dams and river diversions are fully implemented. We validate these modeled ranges by developing a comprehensive field-based sediment budget that quantifies the supply of Ganges-Brahmaputra river sediment under varying Holocene climate conditions. Our data reveal natural responses in sediment supply comparable to previously modeled results and suggest that increased sediment delivery may be capable of offsetting accelerated sea-level rise. This prospect for a naturally sustained Ganges-Brahmaputra delta presents possibilities beyond the dystopian future often posed for this system, but the implementation of currently proposed dams and diversions would preclude such opportunities.

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  2. Abstract

    The Indo‐Burma subduction zone is a highly oblique subduction system where the Indian plate is converging with the Eurasian plate. How strain is partitioned between the Indo‐Burma interface and upper plate Kabaw Fault, and whether the megathrust is a locked and active zone of convergence that can generate great earthquakes are ongoing debates. Here, we use data from a total of 68 Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) stations, including newly installed stations across the Kabaw Fault and compute an updated horizontal and vertical GNSS velocity field. We correct vertical rates for fluctuating seasonal signals by accounting for the elastic response of monsoon water on the crust. We model the geodetic data by inverting for 11,000 planar and non‐planar megathrust fault geometries and two geologically viable structural interpretations of the Kabaw Fault that we construct from field geological data, considering a basin‐scale wedge‐fault and a crustal‐scale reverse fault. We demonstrate that the Indo‐Burma megathrust is locked, converging at a rate ofmm/yr, and capable of hosting >8.2Mwmegathrust events. We also show that the Kabaw Fault is locked and accommodating strike‐slip motion at a rate ofmm/yr and converging at a rate ofmm/yr. Our interpretation of the geological, geophysical, and geodetic datasets indicates the Kabaw Fault is a crustal‐scale structure that actively absorbs a portion of the convergence previously ascribed to the Indo‐Burma megathrust. This reveals a previously unrecognized seismic hazard associated with the Kabaw Fault and slightly reduces the estimated hazard posed by megathrust earthquakes in the region.

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  3. This supplemental text (pp. 2-4) describes the analytical procedures for the detrital zircon fission track (dzFT) and detrital zircon U-Pb analyses (dzUPb). Sample locations are listed in supplemental file S1. The new dzUPb analytical data are presented in supplemental file S2. Supplemental files S3, S4, and S5 give the data sets used in the regional dzUPb compilations, a list of the compiled data, and the intersample comparison statistical results for the dzUPb compilations, respectively. Supplemental S6 contains the Monte-Carlo modeling results for the source terrane inversions using DZMix (Sundell and Saylor, 2017). Supplemental file S7 contains the full data tables and a summary of the dzFT results. All prior datasets were compiled from the supplemental files released with the original publications.

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  4. Abstract

    The Bengal Basin preserves the erosional signals of coupled tectonic‐climatic change during late Cenozoic development of the Himalayan orogen, yet regional correlation and interpretation of these signals remains incomplete. We present a new geologic map of fluvial‐deltaic deposits of the Indo‐Burman Ranges (IBR), five detrital zircon fission track analyses, and twelve high‐n detrital zircon U‐Pb age distributions (dzUPb) from the Barail (late Eocene–early Miocene), Surma (early–late Miocene), and Tipam (late Miocene–Pliocene) Groups of the ancestral Brahmaputra delta. We use dzUPb statistical tests to correlate the IBR units with equivalent age strata throughout the Bengal Basin. An influx of trans‐Himalayan sediment and the first appearance of ∼50 Ma grains of the Gangdese batholith in the lower Surma Group (∼18–15 Ma) records the early Miocene arrival of the ancestral Brahmaputra delta to the Bengal Basin. Contributions from Himalayan sources systematically decrease up section through the late Miocene as the contribution of Trans‐Himalayan Arc sources increases. The Miocene (∼18–8 Ma) deposition of the Surma Group records upstream expansion of the ancestral Brahmaputra River into southeastern Tibet. Late Miocene (<8 Ma) progradation of the fluvial part of the delta (Tipam Group) routed trans‐Himalayan sediment over the shelf edge to the Nicobar Fan. We propose that Miocene progradation of the ancestral Brahmaputra delta reflects increasing rates of erosion and sea level fall during intensification of the South Asian Monsoon after the Miocene Climate Optimum, contemporaneous with a pulse of tectonic uplift of the Himalayan hinterland and Tibet.

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    Constraining time is of critical importance to evaluating the rates and relative contributions of processes driving landscape change in sedimentary basins. The geomorphic character of the field setting guides the application of geochronologic or instrumental tools to this problem, because the viability of methods can be highly influenced by geomorphic attributes. For example, sediment yield and the linked potential for organic preservation may govern the usefulness of radiocarbon dating. Similarly, the rate of sediment transport from source to sink may determine the maturity and/or light exposure of mineral grains arriving in the delta and thus the feasibility of luminescence dating. Here, we explore the viability and quirks of dating and instrumental methods that have been applied in the Bengal Basin, and review the records that they have yielded. This immense, dynamic, and spatially variable system hosts the world's most inhabited delta. Outlining a framework for successful chronologic applications is thus of value to managing water and sediment resources for humans, here and in other populated deltas worldwide. Our review covers radiocarbon dating, luminescence dating, archaeological records and historical maps, short‐lived radioisotopes, horizon markers and rod surface elevation tables, geodetic observations, and surface instrumentation. Combined, these tools can be used to reconstruct the history of the Bengal Basin from Late Pleistocene to present day. The growing variety and scope of Bengal Basin geochronology and instrumentation opens doors for research integrating basin processes across spatial and temporal scales. © 2019 The Authors. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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  6. Abstract

    Subsurface deformation is a driver for river path selection when deformation rates become comparable to the autogenic mobility rate of rivers. Here we combine geomorphology, soil and sediment facies analyses, and geophysical data of the Late Quaternary sediments of the central Garo‐Rajmahal Gap in Northwest Bengal to link subsurface deformation with surface processes. We show variable sedimentation characteristics, from slow rates (<0.8 mm/year) in the Tista megafan at the foot of the Himalaya to nondeposition at the exposed surface of the Barind Tract to the south, enabling the development of mature soils. Combined subsidence in the Tista fan and uplift of the Barind Tract are consistent with a N‐S flexural response of the Indian plate to loading of the Himalaya Mountains given a low value of elastic thickness (15–25 km). Provenance analysis based on bulk strontium concentration suggests a dispersal of sediment consistent with this flexural deformation—in particular the abandonment of the Barind Tract by a Pleistocene Brahmaputra River and the current extents of the Tista megafan lobes. Overall, these results highlight the control by deeply rooted deformation patterns on the routing of sediment by large rivers in foreland settings.

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