Nav: Home

New insights on the relationship between erosion and tectonics in the Himalayas

August 23, 2016

Earth's climate interacts with so called surface processes - such as landslides or river erosion - and tectonics to shape the landscape that we see. In some regions, the sheer force of these processes has led scientists to believe that they may even influence the development of tectonics. An international team of researchers headed by the Cologne-based geographer Dr. Georgina King have now disproved this assumption. The results of their study, "Northward migration of the eastern Himalayan syntaxis revealed by OSL-thermochronometry," will appear in Science on 19 August 2016.

In the eastern Himalaya, mountains exceeding 7,000 meters are coincident with extremely powerful rivers such as the Yarlung-Tsangpo, which is known as the "Everest of Rivers" and runs through the deeply incised Tsangpo gorge. "In this region the dramatic topography coupled with highly erosive rivers means that if surface processes can control tectonics, we should be able to record it here," says King.

Dr. Georgina King heads the luminescence laboratory at the University of Cologne's Institute of Geography. She and her team used a new technique called luminescence thermochronometry to measure the cooling histories of rocks as they move towards the earth's surface (exhumation). Their research revealed that surface processes do not control the location of tectonic deformation, but rather are responding to changing tectonics. The team measured the most recent stages of exhumation, that is, the final 1-2 km of the earth's crust, which have risen to the surface over approximately the past 1 million years. In geological terms this is a quite recent period. The results show that in this time period, the rate of exhumation in the northward part of the eastern Himalayas increased. The scientists compared this record to plausible climatic and tectonic explanations. Using their data and data from other studies, they were able to show that this increased exhumation rate reflected tectonic changes and associated changes in river shape. "Our findings fit very well with previous hypotheses for this region, namely that there is tectonic, rather than climatic control over the pattern of erosion rates," King notes.

Since surface processes can also influence the carbon cycle, this new research technique can also make valuable contributions to climate research. "As we improve our understanding of the role of surface processes in the dynamic evolution of mountains, it will give us insights into the associated carbon fluxes and how these influence global climate," King concludes.
-end-


University of Cologne

Related Data Articles:

Discrimination, lack of diversity, & societal risks of data mining highlighted in big data
A special issue of Big Data presents a series of insightful articles that focus on Big Data and Social and Technical Trade-Offs.
Journal AAS publishes first data description paper: Data collection and sharing
AAS published its first data description paper on June 8, 2017.
73 percent of academics say access to research data helps them in their work; 34 percent do not publish their data
Combining results from bibliometric analyses, a global sample of researcher opinions and case-study interviews, a new report reveals that although the benefits of open research data are well known, in practice, confusion remains within the researcher community around when and how to share research data.
Designing new materials from 'small' data
A Northwestern and Los Alamos team developed a novel workflow combining machine learning and density functional theory calculations to create design guidelines for new materials that exhibit useful electronic properties, such as ferroelectricity and piezoelectricity.
Big data for the universe
Astronomers at Lomonosov Moscow State University in cooperation with their French colleagues and with the help of citizen scientists have released 'The Reference Catalog of galaxy SEDs,' which contains value-added information about 800,000 galaxies.
What to do with the data?
Rapid advances in computing constantly translate into new technologies in our everyday lives.
Why keep the raw data?
The increasingly popular subject of raw diffraction data deposition is examined in a Topical Review in IUCrJ.
Infrastructure data for everyone
How much electricity flows through the grid? When and where?
Finding patterns in corrupted data
A new 'robust' statistical method from MIT enables efficient model fitting with corrupted, high-dimensional data.
Big data for little creatures
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at UC Riverside has received $3 million from the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers who will learn how to exploit the power of big data to understand insects.

Related Data Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...