Surface uplift, tectonics, and erosion of eastern Tibet from large-scale drainage patterns

M. K. Clark, L. M. Schoenbohm, L. H. Royden, K. X. Whipple, B. C. Burchfiel, X. Zhang, W. Tang, E. Wang, L. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

813 Scopus citations


A new regional compilation of the drainage history in southeastern Tibet suggests that the modern rivers draining the plateau margin were once tributaries to a single, southward flowing system which drained into the South China Sea. Disruption of the paleo-drainage occurred by river capture and reversal prior to or coeval with the initiation of Miocene (?) uplift in eastern Tibet, including ∼2000 m of surface uplift of the lower plateau margin since reversal of the flow direction of the Yangtze River. Despite lateral changes in course due to capture and reversal, the superposition of eastward and southward draining rivers that cross the southeastern plateau margin suggests that uplift has occurred over long wavelengths (>1000 km), mimicking the present low-gradient topographic slope. Thus reorganization of drainage lines by capture and reversal events explains most of the peculiar patterns of the eastern plateau rivers, without having to appeal to large-magnitude tectonic shear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)TC1006 1-20
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Drainage reorganization
  • Erosion
  • Geomorphology
  • River capture
  • Tectonics
  • Tibet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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