The Tibetan Plateau is a storehouse of excess gravitational potential energy accumulated through crustal thickening during India-Asia collision, and the contrast in potential energy between the Plateau and its surroundings strongly influences the modern tectonics of south Asia. The distribution of potential energy anomalies across the region, derived from geopotential models, indicates that the Himalayan front is the optimal location for focused dissipation of excess energy stored in the Plateau. The modern pattern of deformation and erosion in the Himalaya provides an efficient mechanism for such dissipation, and a review of the Neogene geological evolution of southern Tibet and the Himalaya shows that this mechanism has been operational for at least the past 20 million years. This persistence of deformational and erosional style suggests to us that orogens, like other complex systems, can evolve toward "steady state" configurations maintained by the continuous flow of energy. The capacity of orogenic systems to self-organize into temporally persistent structural and erosional patterns suggests that the tectonic history of a mountain range may depend on local energetics as much as it does on far-field plate interactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology