All about the Roof of the World

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Science  07 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5463, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5463.13b

The Himalaya is a classic system for investigating many of Earth's physical processes. These mountains represent the best example of ongoing continent-continent collision and display Earth's highest topography. They are responsible for extremes in Earth's climate, including the Asian monsoon, and their dynamics likely influenced past and present climate patterns, ecosystems, and evolution; weathering of the Himalaya has altered world ocean chemistry. Current knowledge of many of these issues is based on the complicated tectonic evolution of the range, which began forming with the collision of India and Asia more than 50 million years ago.

Hodges provides an overview of the geology and geodynamics of the Himalaya and Tibet. These include the amount of shortening across the region as it relates to subduction, the mechanisms producing and maintaining the high topography, and the origin of the thermal structure recorded in the rocks along the main front of the Himalaya. He argues that the Himalaya, including Tibet, have been in a steady state since the Miocene (and perhaps longer), in which subduction and collision have been balanced by uplift and erosion, and he poses the question of whether extrusion of the Tibet plateau is also occurring to the south, as well as the north and west.—BH

Geol. Soc. Am. Bull.112, 324 (2000).

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