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Geological Sciences

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The Kung Co rift is an approximately NNW striking, WSW dipping normal fault exposed in southern Tibet and is part of an extensive network of active approximately NS striking normal faults exposed across the Tibetan Plateau. Detailed new and published (U-Th)/He zircon and apatite thermochronometric data from the footwall of the early Miocene Kung Co granite provide constraints on the middle Miocene to present-day exhumation history of the footwall to the Kung Co fault. Inverse modeling of thermochronometric data yield age patterns that are interpreted as indicating (1) initiation of normal fault slip at ∼12–13 Ma and rapid exhumation of the footwall between ∼13 and 10 Ma, (2) acceleration of normal fault slip at rates of 21.9–6.9 mm/yr at ∼10 Ma, (3) rapid thermal reequilibration between 10 and 9 Ma, and (4) slow exhumation and/or quiescence from ∼9 Ma to the present day. Hanging glacial valleys in the footwall and fault scarps that cut late Quaternary till and moraine deposits indicate that fault slip continues today. Middle to late Miocene initiation of extension across the Kung Co rift is broadly the same as the documented initiation of EW extension across the south central Tibetan Plateau. Eastward flow of middle or lower crust from beneath Tibet accommodated by northward underthrusting of Indian crust beneath Tibet provides a plausible explanation for the onset of EW extension across the Tibetan Plateau.


This article was originally published in Tectonics. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.




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