Basin record of a Miocene lithosphere drip beneath the Colorado Plateau

John J.Y. He, Paul Kapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sinking of gravitationally unstable lithosphere beneath high-elevation plateaus is proposed to be a key driver of their uplift. Numerical geodynamic models predict that lithosphere removal can lead to transient, dynamic topographic changes that could be preserved in the surface record, particularly in sedimentary deposits of lakes or playas that are subsequently inverted. However, few such examples have been documented. Here we show that the Miocene Bidahochi Basin, which was partially and intermittently filled by the Hopi Paleolake, preserves a record of the quasi-elliptical surface response to a viscous drip of lithosphere >100 km beneath the Colorado Plateau. New detrital zircon U-Pb, Lu-Hf, and trace-element data reveal systematic isotopic, geochemical, temperature and fO2 transitions in magmatism proximal to the basin. Integration of geophysical, geochemical, and geological evidence supports a spatially and temporally varying record of subsidence and uplift that is consistent with models of progressive dripping beneath plateaus with thick lithosphere. We demonstrate that dynamic topography at the scale of individual lithosphere drips can be recognized on the Colorado Plateau, despite the strength of its lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4433
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Basin record of a Miocene lithosphere drip beneath the Colorado Plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this