Late Cenozoic evolution of the central Longmen Shan, eastern Tibet: Insight from (U-Th)/He thermochronometry

Tectonics (Impact Factor: 3.99). 10/2009; DOI: 10.1029/2008TC002407

ABSTRACT This article presents (U-Th)/He thermochronological data from the Longmen Shan belt, eastern Tibet. Located between the Songpan-Garze terrane and the Yangtze craton, this mountain range is one of the steepest margins of the Tibetan Plateau and an important area for the comprehension of the mechanisms that control the dynamics of such plateau borders in terms of spatial distribution of deformation or timing of topographic building. We describe several age-elevation transects and perform forward modeling of our data to derive quantitative information on the exhumation of the range. A major phase of exhumation started at 8–11 Ma, with an average rate of ∼0.65 mm a−1. Comparison of zircon and apatite ages indicates that the eastern part of the range may have experienced a significant decrease in exhumation since 2–3 Ma. We use the distribution of finite exhumation across the major faults of the area to quantify their dip-slip throw rate over the last 10 Ma. The Beichuan Fault, which was activated during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, is the major active structure of the Longmen Shan since the late Miocene, with an average thrusting slip rate between 0.4 and 1 mm a−1. Conversely, over the same time period, only minor dip-slip activity occurred on the Wenchuan Fault Zone. This distribution in space and time of exhumation and deformation is discussed and compared to the different proposed models for the geodynamical evolution of the eastern Tibetan margin. It also provides an important long-term perspective to put in context the destructive 2008 Sichuan earthquake that struck the central Longmen Shan.

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May 21, 2014