Magmatic history of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau

George E. Gehrels, An Yin, Xiao Feng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

350 Scopus citations


The northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau is underlain by the Qaidam and Qilian terranes, which consist primarily of mid-Proterozoic through lower Paleozoic oceanic and arc-type assemblages that have been accreted to the southern margin of the Tarim/Sino-Korean craton. Most previous models suggest that these assemblages formed along a northeast dipping subduction system constructed along the margin of the Tarim/Sino-Korean craton during early Paleozoic time. The main components are interpreted to have formed either as an archipelago of volcanic arcs and back arc basins, or as a broad expanse of accretionary complexes. Our geochronologic data support a model, suggested by Sobel and Arnaud [1999], in which the Qaidam and Qilian terranes are separated from the Tarim/Sino-Korean craton by a mid-Paleozoic suture that closed along a southwest dipping subduction zone. The basement to these terranes consists of oceanic assemblages that were amalgamated into a coherent crustal fragment prior to emplacement of ∼920-930 Ma granitoids. Early Paleozoic arc-type magmatism occurred between ∼480 and ∼425 Ma, apparently sweeping southwestward across much of the Qilian and Qaidam terranes. Accretion-related magmatism along the inboard margin of the Qilian terrane occurred between ∼423 Ma and ∼406 Ma. Following Silurian-Devonian accretion, the region has experienced late Paleozoic and Mesozoic uplift and erosion and has been severely overprinted by Tertiary thrusting, uplift, and strike-slip motion along the Altyn Tagh fault. Correlation of geologic features and magmatic histories between the Altun Shan and the Nan Shan suggests that the eastern Altyn Tagh fault has a total left-lateral offset of ∼375 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ETG 5-1 - 5-14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 2003


  • China
  • Paleozoic magmatism
  • Tectonics
  • Tibet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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