The Gangdese retroarc thrust belt revealed

P. Kapp, P. G. DeCelles, A. L. Leier, J. M. Fabijanic, S. He, A. Pullen, G. E. Gehrels, L. Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


The Cretaceous-early Tertiary Gangdese arc in southern Tibet is generally attributed to the northward subduction of Neotethyan oceanic lithosphere prior to Indo-Asian collision. However, the history and tectonic significance of deformation and sedimentation in Tibet during this time interval have remained enigmatic. We show that contractional structures and clastic rocks near the city of Lhasa can be attributed to the development of a northward-propagating retroarc thrust belt that was active between 105 and 53 Ma. A kinematic model shows that the thrust belt could have accommodated >230 km (>55%) of N-S shortening. An episode of large magnitude (>160 km) and rapid (>8 mm/yr) shortening predated the onset of a magmatic flare-up ca. 69 Ma, which is linked to removal of overthickened mantle lithosphere. This tectonic history implies that southern Tibet underwent substantial crustal thickening and elevation gain prior to the Indo-Asian collision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-9
Number of pages6
JournalGSA Today
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Gangdese
  • Lhasa terrane
  • Plateau
  • Retroarc thrust belt
  • Tibet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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