Detrital zircon U-Pb-He double dating: A method of quantifying long- and short-term exhumation rates in collisional orogens

Christina Yan Wang, Ian H. Campbell, Peter W. Reiners, Charlotte M. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A U-Pb-He double-dating method is applied to detrital zircons with core-rim structure from the Ganges River in order to determine average short- and long-term exhumation rates for the Himalayas. Long-term rates are calculated from the U/Pb ages of metamorphic rims of the grains that formed during the Himalayan orogeny and their crystallization temperatures, which are calculated from the Ti-in-zircon thermometer. Short-term rates are calculated from (U-Th)/He ages of the grains with appropriate closure temperatures. The results show that short-term rates for the Himalayas, which range from 0.70 ± 0.09 to 2.67 ± 0.40 km/Myr and average 1.75 ± 0.59 (1 σ) km/Myr, are higher and more varied than the long-term rates, which range from 0.84 ± 0.16 to 1.85 ± 0.35 km/Myr and average 1.26 ± 0.25 (1 σ) km/Myr. The differences between the long-term and short-term rates can be attributed to continuous exhumation of the host rocks in different mechanisms in continental collision orogen. The U/Pb ages of 44.0 ± 3.7 to 18.3 ± 0.5 Ma for the zircon rims indicate a protracted episode of ∼25 Myr for regional metamorphism of the host rocks at deeper crust, whereas the (U-Th)/He ages of 42.2 ± 1.8 to 1.3 ± 0.2 Ma for the zircon grains represent a protracted period of ∼40 Myr for exposure of the host rocks to shallower crustal level. In particular, the oldest (U-Th)/He ages of the zircon grains are close to the oldest U/Pb ages for the rims, indicating that some parcels of the rocks that contain zircons were rapidly exhumed from deep to shallow levels in the stage of collisional orogeny. On the other hand, some parcels of the rocks may have been carried upwards by thrust faults in the post-collisional stage. The parcels could be carried upwards by the thrust faults that steepen as they near the surface, or by transient movement faults so that areas of rapid exhumation became areas of slow exhumation and visa versa on a time scale of a few Myr in order to maintain the continuous exhumation. In this regard, the Ganges River must be preferentially sampling areas that are currently undergoing above average rates of uplift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2702-2711
Number of pages10
JournalScience China Earth Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2014


  • Himalayas
  • U-Pb-He double-dating method
  • collisional orogen
  • exhumation rate
  • zircon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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