Bhumichula plateau: A remnant high-elevation low-relief surface in the Himalayan thrust belt of western Nepal

Tshering Z.L. Sherpa, Peter G. DeCelles, Barbara Carrapa, Lindsay M. Schoenbohm, Joshua Wolpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Himalaya is known for dramatically rugged landscapes including the highest mountains in the world. However, there is a limited understanding of the timing of attainment of high elevation and relief formation, especially in the Nepalese Himalaya. Anomalous high-elevation low-relief (HELR) surfaces, which exhibit geomorphic antiquity and are possibly remnants of formerly widespread high-elevation paleosurfaces, provide a unique opportunity to assess the attainment of regional high elevation in the Himalaya. The Bhumichula plateau is one such HELR surface (4300–4800 m) in the western Nepalese Himalayan fold-thrust belt. The Bhumichula plateau is situated in the Dadeldhura klippe (also called the Karnali klippe), an outlier of Greater Himalayan Sequence highgrade metasedimentary/igneous rocks surrounded by structurally underlying Lesser Himalayan Sequence low-grade metasedimentary rocks. We assess the origin of the Bhumichula plateau by combining regional geological relationships and zircon and apatite (U-Th-Sm)/He and apatite fission track thermochronologic ages. The HELR surface truncates pervasive west-southwestward dipping foliations, indicating that it post-dates tilting of rocks in the hanging wall of the Main Central thrust above the Lesser Himalayan duplex. This suggests that the surface originated at high elevation by erosional beveling of thickened, uplifted crust. Exhumation through the ~180–60 °C thermal window occurred during middle Miocene for samples on the plateau and between middle and late Miocene for rocks along the Tila River, which bounds the north flank of the Bhumichula plateau. Cooling ages along the Tila River are consistent with erosional exhumation generated by early Miocene emplacement of the Main Central (Dadeldhura) thrust sheet, middle Miocene Ramgarh thrust emplacement, and late Miocene growth of the Lesser Himalayan duplex. The most recent middle-late Miocene exhumation took place as the Tila River and its northward flowing tributaries incised upstream, such that the Bhumichula plateau is a remnant of a more extensive HELR paleolandscape. Alpine glaciation lowered relief on the Bhumichula surface, and surface preservation may owe to its relatively durable lithology, gentle structural relief, and elevation range that is above the rainier Lesser Himalaya.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2121-2140
Number of pages20
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Volume135
Issue number7-8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

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