Stratigraphy, structure, and tectonic evolution of the Himalayan fold-thrust belt in Western Nepal

Peter G. Decelles, Delores M. Robinson, Jay Quade, T. P. Ojha, Carmala N. Garzione, Peter Copeland, Bishal N. Upreti

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Regional mapping, stratigraphic study, and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology provide the basis for an incremental restoration of the Himalayan fold-thrust belt in western Nepal. Tectonostratigraphic zonation developed in other regions of the Himalaya is applicable, with minor modifications, in western Nepal. From south to north the major structural features are (1) the Main Frontal thrust system, comprising the Main Frontal thrust and two to three thrust sheets of Neogene foreland basin deposits; (2) the Main Boundary thrust sheet, which consists of Proterozoic to early Miocene, Lesser Himalayan metasedimentary rocks; (3) the Ramgarth thrust sheet, composed of Palcoproterozoic low-grade metasedimentary rocks; (4) the Dadeldhura thrust sheet, which consists of medium-grade metamorphic rocks, Cambrian-Ordovician granite and granitic mylonite, and early Paleozoic Tethyan rocks; (5) the Lesser Himalayan duplex, which is a large composite antiformal stack and hinterland dipping duplex; and (6) the Main Central thrust zone, a broad ductile shear zone. The major structures formed in a general southward progression beginning with the Main Central thrust in late early Miocene time. Eocene-Oligocene thrusting in the Tibetan Himalaya, north of the study area, is inferred from the detrital unroofing record. On the basis of 40Ar/39Ar cooling ages and provenance data from synorogenic sediments, emplacement of the Dadeldhura thrust sheet took place in early Miocene time. The Ramgarh thrust sheet was emplaced between ~ 15 and ~ 10 Ma. The Lesser Himalayan duplex began to grow by ~ 10 Ma, simultaneously folding the north limb of the Dadeldhura synform. The Main Boundary thrust became active in latest Miocene-Pliocene time; transport of its hanging wall rocks over an ~ 8-km-high footwall ramp folded the south limb of the Dadeldhura synform. Thrusts in the Subhimalayan zone became active in Pliocene time. The minimum total shortening in this portion of the Himalayan fold-thrust belt since early Miocene time (excluding the Tibetan zone) is ~ 418-493 km, the variation depending on the actual amounts of shortening accommodated by the Main Central and Dadeldhura thrusts. The rate of shortening ranges between 19 and 22 mm/yr for this period of time. When previous estimates of shortening in the Tibetan Himalaya are included, the minimum total amount of shortening in the fold-thrust belt amounts to 628-667 km. This estimate neglects shortening accommodated by small-scale structures and internal strain and is therefore likely to fall significantly below the actual amount of total shortening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-509
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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