Argles, Tom; Foster, Gavin; Whittington, Alan; Harris, Nigel and George, Mark
Isotope studies reveal a complete Himalayan section in the Nanga Parbat syntaxis.
Many models of orogenesis invoke simple anatomies for mountain belts, comprising a small number of major tectonic provinces separated by major faults. In the Himalayan arc, three main tectonic provinces (the Lesser Himalayan, High Himalayan and Tethyan Series) have been recognized over 2500 km along strike from Bhutan to Kashmir. However, their extension westward to the Nanga Parbat syntaxis remains equivocal. We have supplemented detailed field work in the area with isotopic analysis aimed at revealing distinct signatures for each of the three main provinces. Using Sr isotopic data to refine previous Nd-based discrimination, we demonstrate that the three main tectonic provinces of the central Himalaya also occur in the western syntaxis of northern Pakistan. These three units are thus continuous along the entire orogenic arc. However, their metamorphic grade is generally higher in the syntaxis than in the central Himalaya, challenging the validity of distinctions commonly drawn on this basis elsewhere in the mountain belt. The corollary is that these high-grade units probably continue beyond the syntaxis into northwestern Pakistan, which suggests that, although the precollisional materials may be identical, the western syntaxis marks a change in tectonic style from the main orogen. This conclusion in turn requires that the burial and exhumation history in the western Himalaya be radically different from that in the central Himalaya and thus necessitates a reexamination of models for India-Asia collision.
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