Denudation outpaced by crustal thickening in the eastern Tianshan

Julien Charreau, Dimitri Saint-Carlier, Stéphane Dominguez, Jérôme Lavé, Pierre Henri Blard, Jean Philippe Avouac, Marc Jolivet, Yan Chen, Sheng Li Wang, Nathan David Brown, Luca Claude Malatesta, Edward Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The modern high topography of the Tianshan resulted from the reactivation of a Paleozoic orogenic belt by the India/Asia collision. Today, the range exhibits tectonically active forelands and intermontane basins. Based on quantitative morphotectonic observations and age constraints derived from cosmogenic 10Be dating, single-grain post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence (p-IR IRSL) dating and modeling of fault scarp degradation, we quantify the deformation in the Nalati and Bayanbulak intermontane basins in the central Eastern Tianshan. Our results indicate that at least 1.4 mm/yr of horizontal crustal shortening is accommodated within these two basins. This shortening represents over 15% of the 8.5 ± 0.5 mm/yr total shortening rate across the entire range at this longitude. This shortening rate implies that the Eastern Central Tianshan is thickening at a mean rate of ∼1.4 mm/yr, a rate that is significantly higher than the average denudation rate of 0.14 mm/yr derived from our cosmogenic analysis. This discrepancy suggests that the Tianshan range has not yet reached a steady-state topography and remains in a transient state of topographic growth, most likely due to limited denudation rates driven by the arid climate of Central Asia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-191
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Dec 2017


  • Be exposure dating
  • Active tectonics
  • Bayanbulak basin
  • Mountain building
  • Shortening rate
  • Tianshan


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