Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract Geological relationships and geochronological data suggest that in Miocene time the metamorphic core of the central Himalayan orogen was a wedge-shaped body bounded below by the N-dipping Main Central thrust system and above the N-dipping South Tibetan detachment system. We infer that synchronous movement on these fault systems expelled the metamorphic core southward toward the Indian foreland, thereby moderating the extreme topographic gradient at the southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau. Reaction textures, thermobarometric data and thermodynamic modelling of pelitic schists and gneisses from the Nyalam transect in southern Tibet (28°N, 86°E) imply that gravitational collapse of the orogen produced a complex thermal structure in the metamorphic core. Amphibolite facies metamorphism and anatexis at temperatures of 950 K and depths of at least 30 km accompanied the early stages of displacement on the Main Central thrust system. Our findings suggest that the late metamorphic history of these rocks was characterized by high-T decompression associated with roughly 15 km of unroofing by movement on the South Tibetan detachment system. In the middle of the metamorphic core, roughly 7–8 km below the basal detachment of the South Tibetan system, the decompression was essentially isothermal. Near the base of the metamorphic core, roughly 4–6 km above the Main Central thrust, the decompression was accompanied by about 150 K of cooling. We attribute the disparity between the P–T paths of these two structural levels to cooling of the lower part of the metamorphic core as a consequence of continued (and probably accelerated) underthrusting of cooler rocks in the footwall of the Main Central thrust at the same time as movement on the South Tibetan detachment system.
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