Asian Paleogeography

Tibet and the Himalayas: the widest orogen on Earth

Field measurements in Myanmar – With Guillaume Dupont-Nivet

Paleomagnetic sampling for paleolatitude reconstructions – With Jan Westerweel

Reconstructing the evolution of Asian microplates and topography

The Tibetan-Himalayan orogeny is the crustal expression of the India-Asia collision and is commonly considered as a natural laboratory to study the dynamics of collisions between continental plates. The orogen is so huge that it could have alone triggered late Cenozoic global cooling by enhancing monsoonal rainfall, weathering, and organic matter burial at its margins. Because of its immense size and elevation, numerous sedimentary basins, well-defined plate-boundaries, regional thrust and strike-slip fault systems, widespread volcanism and metamorphism, the Tibetan-Himalayan orogen has been thoroughly documented by several generations of geologists. Yet, the chronology of collision, deformation, and uplift is still widely debated.

This project aims at better documenting the paleogeographic evolution of the Tibetan-Himalayan domain, with a focus on its eastern edge (the Eastern Himalayan syntaxis), which has a very complex history of deformation and burial. The project includes, so far, studies in three areas: Myanmar, India, and Tibet. Our work notably showed that the collision involved a transoceanic volcanic arc, today inter-fingered between India and Asia, which collided first with India during the early Cenozoic. We also showed that Tibetan topography was likely only recently acquired (in the last 30 million years), unlike thought a decade ago. These are important steps in accurately validating or rejecting end-member tectonic models for Asian crustal deformation and provide an unparalleled opportunity to complete the holistic model of collision tectonics.

More about this research project: They speak about it in the news here and there.

Collaborators: Pierrick Roperch, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet & Jan Westerweel (University of Rennes), Douwe van Hinsbergen (University of Utrecht), Chris K. Morley (Uni Chiang Mai), Svetlana Botsyun & Pierre Sepulchre (LSCE, Orsay).

Topical papers:

A. Licht, Zaw Win, J. Westerweel, N. Cogné, C.K. Morley, S. Chantraprasert, F. Poblete, T. Ugrai, B. Nelson, Day Wa Aung and G: Dupont-Nivet (2020). Magmatic history of central Myanmar and implications for the evolution of the Burma Terrane. Gondwana Research 87, 303-319.

J. Westerweel, P. Roperch, A. Licht, Zaw Win, F. Poblete, Hnin Hnin Swe, Myat Kaithy, Day Wa Aung. Paleomagnetic data from the Burma Terrane (Myanmar) constrain the geodynamic evolution of the India-Asia collision. Nature Geoscience 12, 863–868.

S. Botsyun, P. Sepulchre, Y. Donnadieu, C. Risi, A. Licht, & J.K. Caves (2019). Revisited Paleoaltimetry Data Show Low Tibetan Plateau Elevation during the Eocene. Science 363 (6430), eaaq1436.

A. Licht, G. Dupont-Nivet, Zaw Win, Hnin Hnin Swe, Myat Kaithy, P. Roperch, D. Park, V. Littell, J. Westerweel, D. Jones, F. Poblete, Day Wa Aung, H. Huang, C. Hoorn, & Kyaing Sein. Paleogene evolution of the Burmese forearc basin and implications for the history of India-Asia convergence. GSA Bulletin 131 (5-6), 730-748.