In the Himalaya and other active convergent orogens, linear relationships between thermochronometer sample age and elevation are often used to estimate long-term exhumation rates. In these regions, high-relief topography and nonvertical exhumation pathways may invalidate such one-dimensional (1-D) interpretations and lead to significant errors. To quantify these errors, we integrate apatite fission track (AFT) ages from the central Himalaya with a 3-D coupled thermokinematic model, from which sample cooling ages are predicted using a cooling-rate-dependent algorithm. By changing the slip partitioning between faults near the Main Central thrust and the Main Frontal thrust system at the Himalayan range front, we are able to explore the significance of different tectonic scenarios on predicted thermochronometer ages. We find that the predicted AFT cooling ages are not sensitive to the different slip partitioning scenarios but depend strongly on erosion rate: Predicted ages are most consistent with kinematic models that produce erosion rates of 1.8-5.0 mm/yr. This range is considerably smaller than that derived from regression lines through the data (-2.6-12.2 mm/yr). The pattern of observed AFT ages shows more complexity than our models predict. None of the kinematic scenarios are able to fit >80% of all of the AFT data, most likely because erosion is spatially variable. Such complexities notwithstanding, we conclude that the use of thermokinematic modeling and thermochronologic data sets to explore detailed fault kinematics in rapidly eroding active orognes has great promise but requires integration of higher-temperature (>∼350°C) data sets to maximize effectiveness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology