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Structural development of the Tso Morari ultra-high pressure nappe of the Ladakh Himalaya
A continental subduction-related and multistage exhumation process for the Tso Morari ultra-high pressure nappe is proposed. The model is constrained by published thermo-barometry and age data, combined with new geological and tectonic maps. Additionally, observations on the structural and metamorphic evolution of the Tso Morari area and the North Himalayan nappes are presented. The northern margin of the Indian continental crust was subducted to a depth of >90 km below Asia after continental collision some 55 Ma ago. The underthrusting was accompanied by the detachment and accretion of Late Proterozoic to Early Eocene sediments, creating the North Himalayan accretionary wedge, in front of the active Asian margin and the 103-50 Ma Ladakh arc batholith. The basic dikes in the Ordovician Tso Morari granite were transformed to eclogites with crystallization of coesite, some 53 Ma ago at a depth of >90 kin (>27 kbar) and temperatures of 500 to 600 degrees C. The detachment and extrusion of the low density Tso Morari nappe, composed of 70% of the Tso Morari granite and 30% of graywackes with some eclogitic dikes, occurred by ductile pure and simple shear deformation. It was pushed by buoyancy forces and by squeezing between the underthrusted Indian lithosphere and the Asian mantle wedge. The extruding Tso Morari nappe reached a depth of 35 km at the base of the North Himalayan accretionary wedge some 48 Ma ago. There the whole nappe stack recrystallized under amphibolite facies conditions of a Barrovian regional metamorphism with a metamorphic field gradient of 20 degrees C/km. An intense schistosity with a W-E oriented stretching lineation L, and top-to-the E shear criteria and crystallization of oriented sillimanite needles after kyanite, testify to the Tso Morari nappe extrusion and pressure drop. The whole nappe stack, comprising from the base to top the Tso Morari, Tetraogal, Karzok and Mata-Nyimaling-Tsarap nappes, was overprinted by new schistosities with a first N-directed and a second NE-directed stretching lineation L-2 and L-3 reaching the base of the North Himalayan accretionary wedge. They are characterized by top-to-the S and SW shear criteria. This structural overprint was related to an early N- and a younger NE-directed underthrusting of the Indian plate below Asia that was accompanied by anticlockwise rotation of India. The warping of the Tso Morari dome started already some 48 Ma ago with the formation of an extruding nappe at depth. The Tso Morari dome reached a depth of 15 km about 40 Ma ago in the eastern Kiagar La region and 30 Ma ago in the western Nuruchan region. The extrusion rate was of about 3 cm/yr between 53 and 48 Ma, followed by an uplift rate of 1.2 mm/yr between 48 and 30 Ma and of only 0.5 mm/yr after 30 Ma. Geomorphology observations show that the Tso Morari dome is still affected by faults, open regional dome, and basin and pull-apart structures, in a zone of active dextral transpression parallel to the Indus Suture zone.
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