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Basin Research 18 (2006) 393-412
Miocene to Recent exhumation of the central Himalaya determined from combined detrital zircon fission-track and U/Pb analysis of Siwalik sediments, western Nepal
Matthias Bernet 1, Pieter Van Der Beek 1, Raphaël Pik 2, Pascale Huyghe 1, Jean-Louis Mugnier 1, Erika Labrin 1, Adam Szulc 3

Fission-track (FT) analysis of detrital zircon from synorogenic sediment is a well established tool to examine the cooling and exhumation history of convergent mountain belts, but has so far not been used to determine the long-term evolution of the central Himalaya. This study presents FT analysis of detrital zircon from 22 sandstone and modern sediment samples that were collected along three stratigraphic sections within the Miocene to Pliocene Siwalik Group, and from modern rivers, in western and central Nepal. The results provide evidence for widespread cooling in the Nepalese Himalaya at about 16.0 ± 1.4 Ma, and continuous exhumation at a rate of about 1.4 ± 0.2 km/Myr thereafter. The ~16 Ma cooling is likely related to a combination of tectonic and erosional activity, including movement on the Main Central thrust and Southern Tibetan Detachment system, as well as emplacement of the Ramgarh thrust on Lesser Himalayan sedimentary and meta-sedimentary units. The continuous exhumation signal following the ~16 Ma cooling event is seen in connection with ongoing tectonic uplift, river incision, and erosion of lower Lesser Himalayan rocks exposed below the MCT and Higher Himalayan rocks in the hanging wall of the MCT, controlled by orographic precipitation and crustal extrusion. Provenance analysis, to distinguish between Higher Himalayan and Lesser Himalayan zircon sources, is based on double dating of individual zircons with the FT and U/Pb methods. Zircons with pre-Himalayan FT cooling ages may be derived from either non-metamorphic parts of the Tethyan sedimentary succession or Higher Himalayan protolith that formerly covered the Dadeldhura and Ramgarh thrust sheets, but that have been removed by erosion. Both the Higher and Lesser Himalaya appear to be sources for the zircons that record either ~16 Ma cooling or the continuous exhumation afterwards.
1:  Laboratoire de géodynamique des chaines alpines (LGCA)
CNRS : UMR5025 – OSUG – INSU – Université de Savoie – Université Joseph Fourier - Grenoble I
2:  Centre de recherches petrographiques et géochimiques (CRPG)
3:  School of GeoSciences
University of Edinburgh
Sciences of the Universe/Earth Sciences/Geochemistry

Sciences of the Universe/Earth Sciences/Geomorphology

Sciences of the Universe/Earth Sciences/Tectonics
zircon – detrital fission-track – U/Pb dating – exhumation – Himalaya – Nepal – Siwaliks
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