Detrital Geochemical Fingerprints of Rivers Along Southern Tibet and Nepal: Implications for Erosion of the Indus-Yarlung Suture Zone and the Himalayas
Abstract:Our detrital geochemical study of modern sand collected from tributaries of the Yarlung River in southern Tibet and the Kali Gandaki River and its tributaries in Nepal shed light on the ages and exhumation histories of source rocks within the Indus-Yarlung Suture (IYS) zone and the Himalayas.
Seven sand samples from rivers along the suture zone in southern Tibet between Xigatze to the east and Mt. Kailas to the west were collected for detrital zircon U-Pb geochronologic and Apatite Fission Track (AFT) thermochronologic analyses. Zircon U-Pb ages for all rivers range between 15 and 3568 Ma. Rivers draining the northern side of the suture zone mainly yield ages between 40 and 60 Ma, similar to the age of the Gangdese magmatic arc. Samples from rivers draining the southern side of the suture zone record a Tethyan Himalayan signal characterized by age clusters at 500 Ma and 1050 Ma. Our results indicate that the ages and proportion of U-Pb zircons ages of downstream samples from tributaries of the Yarlung River directly reflect source area ages and relative area of source rock exposure in the catchment basin. Significant age components at 37 – 40 Ma, 47 – 50 Ma, 55 – 58 Ma and 94 – 97 Ma reflect episodicity in Gangdese arc magmatism. Our AFT ages show two main signals at 23–18 Ma and 12 Ma, which are in agreement with accelerated exhumation of the Gangdese batholith during these time intervals. The 23 – 18 Ma signal partly overlaps with deposition of the Kailas Formation along the suture zone and may be related to exhumation due to upper plate extension in southern Tibet in response to Indian slab rollback and/or break–off events.
Detrital thermochronology of four sand samples from the Kali Gandaki River and some of its tributaries in Nepal is underway and will provide constraints on the timing of erosion of the central Nepal Himalaya.