Episodic Late Cretaceous to Neogene crustal thickness variation in southern Tibet

Kurt E. Sundell, Andrew K. Laskowski, Caden Howlett, Paul Kapp, Mihai Ducea, James B. Chapman, Lin Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent advancements in quantitatively estimating the thickness of Earth's crust in the geologic past provide an opportunity to test hypotheses explaining the tectonic evolution of southern Tibet. Outstanding debate on southern Tibet's Cenozoic geological evolution is complicated by poorly understood Mesozoic tectonics. We present new U-Pb geochronology and trace element chemistry of detrital zircon from modern rivers draining the Gangdese Mountains in southern Tibet. Results are similar to recently published quantitative estimates of crustal thickness derived from intermediate-composition whole rock records and show ~30 km of crustal thinning from 90 to 70 Ma followed by thickening to near-modern values from 70 to 40 Ma. These results extend evidence of Late Cretaceous north–south extension along strike to the west by ~200 km, and support a tectonic model in which an east–west striking back-arc basin formed along Eurasia's southern margin during slab rollback, prior to terminal collision of India with Eurasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalTerra Nova
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Eu anomaly
  • Tibet
  • crustal thickness
  • rare earth element
  • trace element
  • zircon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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