A New Sediment Accumulation Model of Cenozoic Depositional Ages From the Qaidam Basin, Tibetan Plateau

Feng Cheng, Carmala Garzione, Marc Jolivet, Zhaojie Guo, Daowei Zhang, Changhao Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Two debated age models, with a basal age of ~50 Ma versus ~30 Ma, are proposed for the depositional age of Cenozoic strata within the Qaidam basin result in a diverse understanding of the initial pattern of deformation in the northern Tibetan Plateau. To evaluate these age models, we integrated isopach maps within the basin with published thermochronology data from surrounding ranges to balance the sediments preserved in the basin with materials eroded in the drainage area. When following the traditional ~50 Ma age model, the total volume of material eroded from the surrounding source area is 4.4 ± 0.3 × 105 km3. Using instead the ~30 Ma age model for the basal Lulehe Formation and related revisions to the basin chronology, the volume of eroded material is calculated at 3.5 ± 0.2 × 105 km3, which provides a better match to the calculated total volume of solid grains that are preserved in the basin (2.8 ± 0.1 × 105 km3). However, growth strata revealed in seismic profiles along the Southern Qaidam Thrust suggest reverse-faulting began during the deposition of Oligocene-Miocene strata. Following the ~50 Ma age model, the onset time of faulting along the Southern Qaidam Thrust is ~35.5 Ma, consistent with previous thermochronology results. If both age models are correct, then this requires a significant time-transgressive nature to basin fill that allows for older ages of deposition in the southern part of the basin. This study highlights the need for further effort to determine the depositional age of the strata in the southern and western parts of the Qaidam basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3101-3121
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cenozoic
  • Qaidam basin
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • basin fill
  • depositional age
  • erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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