The Tista Megafan, a ~50 kyr Record of Drainage Development, Erosion and Weathering in the Sikkim Himalayas (Eastern India)
Abstract:The Tista River, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra drainage system (Eastern Himalaya) has built a fluvial deposit which extents over 16500 km2. The Tista megafan stands out because of (1) its disproportionate size compared to that of the upstream Tista River catchment (8000 km2), and (2) it has been incised about 50m by the river at the topographic front of the mountain range. Neither the timing of deposition/incision of the megafan sediments, and their potential tectonic or climatic controls have yet been investigated.
We use both IRSL and 10Be cosmogenic data to respectively constrain the date of deposition and abandonment of the different lobes of the megafan. We suggest that two distal lobes developed successively downstream from a common proximal lobe. Deposition took place since ~50 ka and incision began at 4.0 +0.6/-0.4 ka at an average rate of 10.5 +0.6/-1.8 mm yr-1.
In addition, petrology, isotope geochemistry (εNd, 87Sr/86Sr) and chemical composition performed on modern river sands and late-Quaternary megafan sediments allows characterizing (1) provenance variations through time of megafan deposits and their implication for drainage development (2) the weathering history of Sikkim recorded by the megafan deposits. Results show that the Tista fan deposits are mainly sourced from the High Himalayan Crystalline domain and the Tethyan Sedimentary Series, (consistent with high erosion rates identified in north Sikkim at millennial timescale). Variations in provenance and weathering through time recorded by the Tista megafan deposits can be linked to climatic variations with strong monsoonal precipitations penetrating further northward into the southern Tibetan plateau. Tectonic processes seem to play a minor role.
Otherwise, we propose as a first hypothesis that the Kosi River has recently (at ~4 ka) captured the upper part of the Tista catchment. That could explain the particular isotopic signature of the Tista megafan deposits, its recent incision, its disproportionate size, as well as the sediment fluxes recorded by the megafan deposits, which are higher than those inferred from modern erosion rates in Sikkim.
These data provide a new comprehensive view on erosional processes and associated sedimentary fluxes of Sikkim to the alluvial plain as well as their potential climatic or tectonic controls.