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Timing of fluvial terrace formation and concomitant travertine deposition in the upper Sutlej River (Tirthapuri, southwestern Tibet) and paleoclimatic implications

Journal Article


Abstract


  • Travertines are carbonates precipitated from hydrothermal springs and are relatively common on the Tibetan plateau and occur along tectonically active faults. The Karakoram fault system is an active strike-slip fault that extends from the Pamir into southwestern Tibet, where it controls the course of the upper Sutlej River and the occurrence of several hydrothermal springs, including the Tirthapuri hot springs. Multiple fluvial terraces that are partly capped by travertine are preserved in the Tirthapuri area. Four main fluvial terrace levels (labelled as T1 to T4 with increasing height above river) were identified and several meter-thick travertine platforms occur on the current river level as well as the T2 and T3 terraces. Sedimentological and petrographic observations suggest that the travertine platforms were deposited on active floodplains of the paleo- and modern Sutlej River, and preserved from fluvial erosion because travertine precipitation was immediately followed by vertical river-bed incision and thus terrace abandonment. Results of 230Th/U in combination with luminescence dating show that the deposition of travertine platform and river incision that led to the formation of T3 terrace (∼93 m above the Sutlej) took place at ca. 127.5 ka. The development of terrace T2 and overlying travertine platform (∼28 m above the Sutlej) occurred between ca. 10.0 and 8.8 ka. Fluvial incision has arrived at the modern level at least ca. 0.2 ka ago. Both the travertine deposition and major river incision are likely triggered by the intensified Indian summer monsoon and are linked to phases of maximum monsoon strength. During strong monsoon phases, a large quantity of moisture is transported into southwestern Tibet, activating hot springs and thus travertine precipitation, facilitating fluvial incision and stripping off sediments from the regional hill-slopes. At least over the last glacial cycle we suggest that the Tirthapuri travertine and associated fluvial incision are sensitive indicators of (peak) monsoonal activity and can thus provide valuable insights into past climate change and climate-driven landscape evolution on the southwestern Tibetan Plateau. Comparison of our findings with published data further suggests that monsoon-controlled fluvial aggradation and incision during the early Holocene is synchronous in southwestern Tibet and the adjacent sector of the Himalayan orogen (north-western Sub-to High Himalaya).

UOW Authors


  •   Gliganic, Luke (external author)
  •   May, Hendrik (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Wang, Z., Meyer, M. C., Gliganic, L. A., Hoffmann, D. L., & May, J. H. (2017). Timing of fluvial terrace formation and concomitant travertine deposition in the upper Sutlej River (Tirthapuri, southwestern Tibet) and paleoclimatic implications. Quaternary Science Reviews, 169, 357-377. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.06.009

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85020906172

Web Of Science Accession Number


Start Page


  • 357

End Page


  • 377

Volume


  • 169

Abstract


  • Travertines are carbonates precipitated from hydrothermal springs and are relatively common on the Tibetan plateau and occur along tectonically active faults. The Karakoram fault system is an active strike-slip fault that extends from the Pamir into southwestern Tibet, where it controls the course of the upper Sutlej River and the occurrence of several hydrothermal springs, including the Tirthapuri hot springs. Multiple fluvial terraces that are partly capped by travertine are preserved in the Tirthapuri area. Four main fluvial terrace levels (labelled as T1 to T4 with increasing height above river) were identified and several meter-thick travertine platforms occur on the current river level as well as the T2 and T3 terraces. Sedimentological and petrographic observations suggest that the travertine platforms were deposited on active floodplains of the paleo- and modern Sutlej River, and preserved from fluvial erosion because travertine precipitation was immediately followed by vertical river-bed incision and thus terrace abandonment. Results of 230Th/U in combination with luminescence dating show that the deposition of travertine platform and river incision that led to the formation of T3 terrace (∼93 m above the Sutlej) took place at ca. 127.5 ka. The development of terrace T2 and overlying travertine platform (∼28 m above the Sutlej) occurred between ca. 10.0 and 8.8 ka. Fluvial incision has arrived at the modern level at least ca. 0.2 ka ago. Both the travertine deposition and major river incision are likely triggered by the intensified Indian summer monsoon and are linked to phases of maximum monsoon strength. During strong monsoon phases, a large quantity of moisture is transported into southwestern Tibet, activating hot springs and thus travertine precipitation, facilitating fluvial incision and stripping off sediments from the regional hill-slopes. At least over the last glacial cycle we suggest that the Tirthapuri travertine and associated fluvial incision are sensitive indicators of (peak) monsoonal activity and can thus provide valuable insights into past climate change and climate-driven landscape evolution on the southwestern Tibetan Plateau. Comparison of our findings with published data further suggests that monsoon-controlled fluvial aggradation and incision during the early Holocene is synchronous in southwestern Tibet and the adjacent sector of the Himalayan orogen (north-western Sub-to High Himalaya).

UOW Authors


  •   Gliganic, Luke (external author)
  •   May, Hendrik (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Wang, Z., Meyer, M. C., Gliganic, L. A., Hoffmann, D. L., & May, J. H. (2017). Timing of fluvial terrace formation and concomitant travertine deposition in the upper Sutlej River (Tirthapuri, southwestern Tibet) and paleoclimatic implications. Quaternary Science Reviews, 169, 357-377. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.06.009

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85020906172

Web Of Science Accession Number


Start Page


  • 357

End Page


  • 377

Volume


  • 169