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 Bulletin, 127(1-2), 181-199.
Image: North face of Mount Everest as seen from Tibet, China. Source: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.