DOI: 10.1146/ ISSN:

Geologic Evolution of the Himalayan-Tibetan Orogen

An Yin, T. Mark Harrison
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

A review of the geologic history of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen suggests that at least 1400 km of north-south shortening has been absorbed by the orogen since the onset of the Indo-Asian collision at about 70 Ma. Significant crustal shortening, which leads to eventual construction of the Cenozoic Tibetan plateau, began more or less synchronously in the Eocene (50–40 Ma) in the Tethyan Himalaya in the south, and in the Kunlun Shan and the Qilian Shan some 1000–1400 km in the north. The Paleozoic and Mesozoic tectonic histories in the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen exerted a strong control over the Cenozoic strain history and strain distribution. The presence of widespread Triassic flysch complex in the Songpan-Ganzi-Hoh Xil and the Qiangtang terranes can be spatially correlated with Cenozoic volcanism and thrusting in central Tibet. The marked difference in seismic properties of the crust and the upper mantle between southern and central Tibet is a manifestation of both Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonics. The former, however, has played a decisive role in localizing Tertiary contractional deformation, which in turn leads to the release of free water into the upper mantle and the lower crust of central Tibet, causing partial melting in the mantle lithosphere and the crust.

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