Slip rates of the Karakorum fault, Ladakh, India, determined using cosmic ray exposure dating of debris flows and moraines

E. T. Brown, R. Bendick, D. L. Bourlès, V. Gaur, P. Molnar, G. M. Raisbeck, F. Yiou

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195 Scopus citations

Abstract

We measure an average slip rate of 4 ± 1 mm yr-1 along the Karakorum fault, heretofore considered one of Earth's greatest strike-slip faults and thought by many to play a key role in Asian deformation kinematics. Levees of a debris flow, and contours of the fan on which it was deposited, have been displaced 40 ± 5 m. Concentrations of 10Be in boulders from the debris flow yield ages of 11-14 ka, implying a slip rate of 4 ± 1 mm yr-1 during that period. A fresher debris flow has been offset 2-2.5 m since 1-2 ka, implying the occurrence of an earthquake with M ∼ 7 since that time. Concentrations of 10Be in boulders on the crest of the most extensive moraine near Leh imply that the most recent major glacial advance occurred at 90 ± 15 ka. This is consistent with the inference of others that alpine glaciers in this region have not necessarily expanded in concert with Northern Hemisphere continental ice sheets. If features, including lateral moraines, that Liu inferred to have been offset 300-350 m by the Karakorum fault date from the same period, they too imply a slip rate of 3-4 mm yr-1. This slip rate is comparable to rates of extension across grabens within Tibet. With recent evidence that slip along the Altyn Tagh fault occurs at ∼ 10 mm yr-1, our rate suggests that slip along the boundaries of Tibet is not significantly more rapid than extension within the plateau. Hence, plate tectonics, in the strictest sense, ought not be applied to Tibet, because Tibet does not behave as a rigid plate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-1-7-13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume107
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 10 2002

Keywords

  • Beryllium 10
  • Cosmic ray exposure age
  • Karakorum fault
  • Slip rate

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