Tectonic evolution of the early Mesozoic blueschist-bearing Qiangtang metamorphic belt, central Tibet

Paul Kapp, An Yin, Craig E. Manning, T. Mark Harrison, Michael H. Taylor, Lin Ding

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423 Scopus citations


A >500-km-long east-west trending metamorphic belt in the Qiangtang terrane of central Tibet consists of tectonic melange that occurs in the footwalls of Late Triassic-Early Jurassic domal low-angle normal faults. The melange is comprised of a strongly deformed matrix of metasedimentary and mafic schists that encloses lesser-deformed blocks of metabasites, Carboniferous-Triassic metasedimentary rocks, and early Paleozoic gneiss. Both the blocks and melange matrix exhibit greenschist, epidote-blueschist, and locally, epidote-amphibolite facies mineral assemblages. Thermobarometry reveals that the metamorphic belt experienced pressures of >10 kbar. Maximum equilibration temperatures for mafic schists in the melange matrix decrease from east to west, from ∼660°C near Shuang Hu (33°N, 89°E), ∼500°C near Rongma (33°N, 87°E), to ∼425°C near Gangma Co (34°N, 84°E). Equilibration at consistently high pressures over a large range of temperatures is compatible with metamorphism of Qiangtang melange within a low-angle subduction zone beneath a continental margin. Coupled structural, thermobarometric, and 40Ar/39Ar studies suggest that Qiangtang melange was exhumed in an intracontinental setting from depths of >35 km to upper crustal levels in <12 Myr by Late Triassic-Early Jurassic crustal-scale normal faulting. Detrital zircons from metasandstones within the melange matrix yield U-Pb ion-microprobe ages that range from early Paleozoic to Early Archean, and could have been sourced from terranes to the north of the Jinsha suture. Our results support a model in which Qiangtang melange was underthrust ∼200 km beneath the Qiangtang terrane during early Mesozoic flat-slab southward subduction of Paleo-Tethyan oceanic lithosphere along the Jinsha suture. This model predicts that significant portions of the central Tibetan continental mantle lithosphere were removed during early Mesozoic low-angle oceanic subduction and that the present-day central Tibetan deeper crust includes large volumes of underthrust early Mesozoic melange.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-1 - 17-22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2003


  • Blueschist
  • Exhumation
  • Melange
  • Metamorphic core complex
  • Subduction
  • Tibet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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