New details on the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau

Research of geologists published in GSA Bulletin has revealed new information regarding the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau, at present the highest elevated mountain range on Earth (~ 4.5 km). The scientists have reconstructed lake paleotemperatures for the Miocene and Pliocene by using clumped isotope thermometry, based on carbonate shells from gastropods in two well-studied basins in central and southwestern Tibet. Their results show that between the late Miocene and early Pliocene, paleotemperatures were up to 9 °C colder than during the mid-Pliocene and younger. Since paleotemperature records reflect changes in both climate and elevation, the scientists estimate that the Tibetan Plateau must have reached an even higher paleoelevation (~ 5.4 km) than at present. This fits well with paleontological and isotopic data from the Miocene-Pliocene indicating the presence of cold-adapted mammals in a cold, high-elevation climate.

Journal reference: Huntington, K. W., Saylor, J., Quade, J., & Hudson, A. M. (2015). High late Miocene–Pliocene elevation of the Zhada Basin, southwestern Tibetan Plateau, from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry. Geological Society of America Bulletin127(1-2), 181-199.

Image: North face of Mount Everest as seen from Tibet, China. Source: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.