Climatic control on rapid exhumation along the Southern Himalayan Front

Rasmus C. Thiede, Bodo Bookhagen, Ramon Arrowsmith, Edward R. Sobel, Manfred R. Strecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


Along the Southern Himalayan Front (SHF), areas with concentrated precipitation coincide with rapid exhumation, as indicated by young mineral cooling ages. Twenty new, young (<1-5 Ma) apatite fission track (AFT) ages have been obtained from the Himalayan Crystalline Core along the Sutlej Valley, NW India. The AFT ages correlate with elevation, but show no spatial relationship to tectonic structures, such as the Main Central Thrust or the Southern Tibetan Fault System. Monsoonal precipitation in this region exerts a strong influence on erosional surface processes. Fluvial erosional unloading along the SHF is focused on high mountainous areas, where the orographic barrier forces out > 80% of the annual precipitation. AFT cooling ages reveal a coincidence between rapid erosion and exhumation that is focused in a ∼50-70-km-wide sector of the Himalaya, rather than encompassing the entire orogen. Assuming simplified constant exhumation rates, the rocks of two age vs. elevation transects were exhumed at ∼1.4±0.2 and ∼1.1±0.4 mm/a with an average cooling rate of ∼40-50 °C/Ma during Pliocene-Quarternary time. Following other recently published hypotheses regarding the relation between tectonics and climate in the Himalaya, we suggest that this concentrated loss of material was accommodated by motion along a back-stepping thrust to the south and a normal fault zone to the north as part of an extruding wedge. Climatically controlled erosional processes focus on this wedge and suggest that climatically controlled surface processes determine tectonic deformation in the internal part of the Himalaya.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-806
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 15 2004


  • Apatite fission track
  • Erosion
  • Exhumation
  • Geochronology
  • Himalaya
  • Precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Climatic control on rapid exhumation along the Southern Himalayan Front'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this