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May 12, 2020
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The ‘Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau’ Fable

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The 'Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau' Fable

‘The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau’ is invoked to elucidate numerous phenomena, from monsoon dynamics to biodiversity evolution and every little thing in between. It isn’t correct, finds a brand new paper.

The orogeny of the Tibetan area (Tibet, The Himalaya and the Hengduan Mountains) dates again roughly 200 million years, lengthy earlier than the arrival of India, and was the product of earlier Gondwanan tectonic block collisions that produced a posh of mountain chains and valleys. The assessment finds that the idea of an intensive low-relief Tibet, rising in its entirety on account of the India-Eurasia collision, is fake, and the product of overly simplistic modeling.

Earlier secure isotope and fossil-based estimates of previous floor heights have been usually contradictory; isotopes are inclined to report the peak of mountain crests, whereas the fossils are extra indicative of the place sediments accumulate in valley bottoms. The isotopic bias in the direction of uplands implies that even valleys seem as uplands on the peak of the bounding mountains and so seem as an elevated plateau, a end result confirmed by isotope-enabled local weather modelling. By combining well-dated a number of paleoaltimetric strategies a greater understanding of previous topography emerges.

The formation of a posh topography, and in locations thickened crust, earlier than the arrival of India means that the formation of the Tibetan Plateau was not solely because of the India-Eurasia collision and this has necessary implications for the quantity of crustal shortening and the scale of ‘larger India’ earlier than collision.


Tibet was assembled by a succession of Gondwanan tectonic blocks (terranes) colliding with Eurasia over a interval of about 200 million years.

Earlier work pointed to an increase of japanese Tibet and the Hengduan Mountains within the Miocene, however current radiometric re-dating of key websites reveals the area was elevated earlier than plateau formation and the rise of the Himalaya. Uplift started within the Eocene largely on account of extrusion of elements of Tibet starting as early as ~ 52 million years in the past and prolonged into the early Oligocene, with panorama dissection by way of the growth of river drainages happening within the Miocene (topic to the relationship being appropriate) because the monsoons strengthened.

The Himalaya started to rise within the Eocene, however solely crested the pre-existing Gangdese mountains that already shaped a Four-5 km excessive ‘wall’ alongside southern Tibet after the mid Miocene. North of the Gangdese, alongside the Bangong-Nujiang Suture south of the Tangula mountains, a deep historic east-west aligned nice central valley existed till early within the Neogene (roughly 23 million years in the past) and later in its historical past was internally-drained. Quite a few fossil finds present lakeside sub-tropical vegetation on this valley remained under 2.three km above sea degree for a lot of its historical past, the valley flooring solely rising within the Neogene to kind right this moment’s flat plateau by way of ongoing tectonic compression from India and sediment infilling.

‘Uplift’ in geology pertains to the rise of rocks and work finished towards gravity, so the infilling of basins by sediment to contribute to the formation of a low-relief floor implies that Tibet was by no means ‘uplifted’ as a plateau, nor was that rise solely a consequence of the India-Eurasia collision.

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