Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Just How Old Is The Tibetan Plateau?

Date:
August 13, 2001
Source:
University Of California, Santa Barbara
Summary:
A study of the world's highest geological feature, the Tibetan Plateau, sometimes called the "roof of the world," has determined that the plateau rose to its current height much earlier than previously thought, according to a paper in the August 9th issue of the journal Nature, and it cannot go higher than it is now.

Santa Barbara, Calif. -- A study of the world's highest geological feature, the Tibetan Plateau, sometimes called the "roof of the world," has determined that the plateau rose to its current height much earlier than previously thought, according to a paper in the August 9th issue of the journal Nature, and it cannot go higher than it is now.

Bradley Hacker, a professor of geological sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, spent five weeks in central Tibet, with his U.S. European and Chinese colleagues, deriving the measurements that indicate this result.

According to the study, the plateau dates back 13.5 million years and has reached a maximum average height of five kilometers. Mountainous areas such as the Tibetan Plateau affect weather world-wide, explained Hacker, and "that is one reason for the great interest in the history of the area." The monsoons of India and Asia are caused by the plateau, for example.

He describes the area as a sort of top-hat shape, with India and Central Asia as the brim of the hat, and the flat top of the hat as the high ground of the Tibetan Plateau.

The Tibetan Plateau, including the Himalayan Mountains, is the result of the collision between two tectonic plates, that of India and Asia. In the area of the collision, known as a reverse fault, the crust thickens, but after a certain amount of thickening it weakens and spreads apart.

"Consider the analogy of stacking pats of butter on top of one another," explained Hacker. "Imagine that stacking each pat of butter also generates heat, so that a thicker stack of butter is hotter than a thin stack." In the case of the Earth, it is the heat generated by radioactive decay that ensues as more crust piles up, making the thickened crust weaker. Ultimately both the butter, and the Earth's crust, reach a certain maximum height and then begin to flow outward, producing a flat-topped spreading plateau. In the Tibetan Plateau, the maximum height of the plateau is five kilometers before the crust begins to spread out.

"There is a balance between the strength provided by the thickening of the crust and the weakness caused by heating from all that material," said Hacker.

Hacker and his co-authors determined the ages of normal faults, where the Earth's crust pulls apart and gets thinner, by measuring the decay of rubidium to strontium, and potassium to argon trapped in crystals.

"These results show that the Tibetan Plateau is in a steady state," said Hacker. "It will not get any higher."

Mount Everest and other high mountains of the Himalayas that are part of the Tibetan Plateau are balanced out by nearby, lower areas cut by major rivers such as the Indus, so that the average height is still only five kilometers, said Hacker.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, Santa Barbara. "Just How Old Is The Tibetan Plateau?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010810072336.htm>.
University Of California, Santa Barbara. (2001, August 13). Just How Old Is The Tibetan Plateau?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010810072336.htm
University Of California, Santa Barbara. "Just How Old Is The Tibetan Plateau?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010810072336.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A day after over 100,000 people marched against climate change, more than 1,000 activists blocked parts of Manhattan's financial district. Over 100 people, including a person wearing a white polar bear suit, were arrested Monday night. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday warned about the potential "catastrophe" if global warming was not dealt with in a "powerful" way. Duration: 01:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) After a year of poor rains and heavy fighting Somalia is again at risk of famine, just three years after food shortages killed 260,000 people. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins