Magnetic polarity stratigraphy of the Neogene foreland basin deposits of Nepal

T. P. Ojha, R. F. Butler, P. G. Decelles, J. Quade

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The early Miocene Dumri Formation and middle Miocene-Pliocene Siwalik Group were deposited in the Himalayan foreland basin in response to uplift and erosion in the Himalayan fold-thrust belt. We report magnetostratigraphic data from four sections of these rocks in Nepal. Three of these sections are in the Siwalik Group in the hanging wall of the Main Frontal thrust, and one section is from the Dumri Formation in the hanging wall of the Main Boundary thrust (MBT). Thermal demagnetization experiments demonstrate that laminated siltstones yield palaeomagnetic data useful for tectonic and magnetostratigraphic studies whereas other lithofacies yield data of questionable reliability. Magnetostratigraphic data have been acquired from 297 sites within a 4200-m-thick section of Siwalik deposits at Surai Khola. The observed sequence of polarity zones correlates with the geomagnetic polarity time scale (GPTS) from chron C5Ar.1n to chron C2r.2n, spanning the time frame ca. 12.5-2.0 Ma. At Muksar Khola (eastern Nepal), 111 palaeomagnetic sites from a 2600-m-thick section of the Siwalik Group define a polarity zonation that correlates with the GPTS from chron C4Ar.2n to chron C2Br.1r, indicating an age range of ca. 10.0-3.5 Ma. At Tinau Khola, 121 sites from a 1824-m-thick section of the Siwalik Group are correlated to chrons C5An.1n through C4r.1n, equivalent to the time span ca. 11.8-8.1 Ma. At Swat Khola, 68 sites within a 1200-m-thick section of lower Miocene Dumri Formation are correlated with chrons C6n through C5Bn.2n, covering the time span ca. 19.9-15.1 Ma. Together with previous results from Khutia Khola and Bakiya Khola, these data provide the first magnetostratigraphic correlation along nearly the entire NW-SE length of Nepal. The correlation demonstrates that major lithostratigraphic boundaries in the Siwalik Group are highly diachronous, with roughly 2 Myr of variability. In turn, this suggests that the major sedimentological changes commonly inferred to reflect strengthening of the Asian monsoon are not isochronous. Sediment accumulation curves exhibit a 30-50% increase in accumulation rate in four of the five sections of the Siwalik Group, but the timing of this increase ranges systematically from ∼11.1 Ma in western Nepal to ∼5.3 Ma in eastern Nepal. If this increase in sediment accumulation rate is interpreted as a result of more rapid subsidence owing to thrust loading in the Himalaya, then the diachroneity of this increase suggests lateral propagation of a major thrust system, perhaps the MBT, at a rate of ca. 103 mm year -1 across the length of Nepal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-90
Number of pages30
JournalBasin Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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