Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

High-elevation Tibetan Plateau before India–Eurasia collision recorded by triple oxygen isotopes

Abstract

The timing and magnitude of the early Cenozoic surface uplift of the Tibetan Plateau is controversial due to a scarcity of unaltered terrestrial sediments required for palaeoaltimetry techniques. Such information is critical, however, for constraining the geodynamic and palaeoclimatic evolution of the Indian and Eurasian continents and for interpreting global climate, biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles since the Cenozoic. We find that substantial uplift occurred by 63 to 61 million years ago, before the collision of the Indian and Eurasian continental plates, based on comparison of triple oxygen isotopes of modern meteoric waters with epithermal Ag–Pb–Zn deposit quartz veins from the Palaeocene Gangdese Arc in southern Lhasa. Low δ18O and δ17O quartz values are consistent with precipitation from meteoric waters influenced by a large degree of topographic rainout. We show that by 63 to 61 Ma, the Gangdese Arc reached an elevation of ~3.5 km, suggesting that the Gangdese Arc achieved >60% of its current elevation before continent–continent collision. This uplift was probably caused by crustal shortening in response to low-angle subduction of Neo-Tethyan oceanic lithosphere. This early high palaeoelevation estimate for the Himalaya–Tibetan system challenges previous assumptions that southern Tibet uplift required continent–continent collision to achieve substantial topography.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type

from$1.95

to$39.95

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Topographic map of the southern Tibetan Plateau showing geological units and sample locations.
Fig. 2: Triple oxygen isotope measurements and palaeoelevation calculations.
Fig. 3: Surface uplift history of southern Tibet.

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

All new data collected as part of this study are reported in Extended Data Tables 1 and 2 and Supplementary Information and are available on Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7948625.

Code availability

Code reproducing the regressions and calculations carried out in this work is available on Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7948625.

References

  1. Wang, C. et al. Constraints on the early uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 4987–4992 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Raymo, M. E. & Ruddiman, W. F. Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate. Nature 359, 117–122 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Kutzbach, J., Guetter, P., Ruddiman, W. & Prell, W. Sensitivity of climate to late Cenozoic uplift in southern Asia and the American west: numerical experiments. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 94, 18393–18407 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Molnar, P., England, P. & Martinod, J. Mantle dynamics, uplift of the Tibetan Plateau, and the Indian monsoon. Rev. Geophys. 31, 357–396 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Mulch, A. & Chamberlain, C. P. The rise and growth of Tibet. Nature 439, 670–671 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Tapponnier, P. et al. Oblique stepwise rise and growth of the Tibet Plateau. Science 294, 1671–1677 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Rowley, D. B. & Currie, B. S. Palaeo-altimetry of the late Eocene to Miocene Lunpola basin, central Tibet. Nature 439, 677–681 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Ding, L. et al. The Andean-type Gangdese Mountains: paleoelevation record from the Paleocene–Eocene Linzhou Basin. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 392, 250–264 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ingalls, M., Rowley, D. B., Currie, B. S. & Colman, A. S. Reconsidering the uplift history and peneplanation of the northern Lhasa terrane, Tibet. Am. J. Sci. 320, 479–532 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Ingalls, M. et al. Paleocene to Pliocene low-latitude, high-elevation basins of southern Tibet: implications for tectonic models of India–Asia collision, Cenozoic climate, and geochemical weathering. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 130, 307–330 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Xiong, Z. et al. The rise and demise of the Paleogene Central Tibetan Valley. Sci. Adv. 8, eabj0944 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Botsyun, S. et al. Revised paleoaltimetry data show low Tibetan Plateau elevation during the Eocene. Science 363, eaaq1436 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hu, X. et al. The timing of India–Asia collision onset—facts, theories, controversies. Earth Sci. Rev. 160, 264–299 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Zhu, D. et al. Magmatic record of India–Asia collision. Sci. Rep. 5, 14289 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Zhu, D., Wang, Q. & Zhao, Z. Constraining quantitatively the timing and process of continent–continent collision using magmatic record: method and examples. Sci. China Earth Sci. 60, 1040–1056 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Leier, A. L., DeCelles, P. G., Kapp, P. & Ding, L. The Takena Formation of the Lhasa terrane, southern Tibet: the record of a Late Cretaceous retroarc foreland basin. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 119, 31–48 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Quade, J. et al. Resetting southern Tibet: the serious challenge of obtaining primary records of Paleoaltimetry. Glob. Planet. Change 191, 103194 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Wang, C. et al. Outward-growth of the Tibetan Plateau during the Cenozoic: a review. Tectonophysics 621, 1–43 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Royden, L. H., Burchfiel, B. C. & van der Hilst, R. D. The geological evolution of the Tibetan Plateau. Science 321, 1054–1058 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Chamberlain, C. et al. Triple oxygen isotopes of meteoric hydrothermal systems—implications for palaeoaltimetry. Geochem. Perspect. Lett. 15, 6–9 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Herwartz, D. et al. Revealing the climate of snowball Earth from Δ17O systematics of hydrothermal rocks. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 5337–5341 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Rowley, D. B. & Garzione, C. N. Stable isotope-based paleoaltimetry. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 35, 463–508 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Ji, W., Wu, F., Chung, S., Li, J. & Liu, C. Zircon U–Pb geochronology and Hf isotopic constraints on petrogenesis of the Gangdese batholith, southern Tibet. Chem. Geol. 262, 229–245 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Boos, W. R. & Kuang, Z. Dominant control of the South Asian monsoon by orographic insulation versus plateau heating. Nature 463, 218–222 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Tian, C., Wang, L., Tian, F., Zhao, S. & Jiao, W. Spatial and temporal variations of tap water 17O-excess in China. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 260, 1–14 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hren, M. T., Bookhagen, B., Blisniuk, P. M., Booth, A. L. & Chamberlain, C. P. δ18O and δD of streamwaters across the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau: implications for moisture sources and paleoelevation reconstructions. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 288, 20–32 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Aron, P. G. et al. Triple oxygen isotopes in the water cycle. Chem. Geol. 120026 (2020).

  28. Luz, B. & Barkan, E. Variations of 17O/16O and 18O/16O in meteoric waters. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 74, 6276–6286 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Caves, J. K. et al. Role of the westerlies in Central Asia climate over the Cenozoic. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 428, 33–43 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Passey, B. H. & Ji, H. Triple oxygen isotope signatures of evaporation in lake waters and carbonates: a case study from the western United States. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 518, 1–12 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Li, H. et al. Fluid inclusions, isotopic characteristics and geochronology of the Sinongduo epithermal Ag–Pb–Zn deposit, Tibet, China. Ore Geol. Rev. 107, 692–706 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Wostbrock, J. A. et al. Calibration and application of silica–water triple oxygen isotope thermometry to geothermal systems in Iceland and Chile. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 234, 84–97 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Sharp, Z. et al. A calibration of the triple oxygen isotope fractionation in the SiO2–H2O system and applications to natural samples. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 186, 105–119 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Speelman, E. N. et al. Modeling the influence of a reduced Equator-to-pole sea surface temperature gradient on the distribution of water isotopes in the early/middle Eocene. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 298, 57–65 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Taylor, H. P. Jr Oxygen and hydrogen isotope studies of plutonic granitic rocks. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 38, 177–210 (1978).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Zachos, J. C., Stott, L. D. & Lohmann, K. C. Evolution of early Cenozoic marine temperatures. Paleoceanography 9, 353–387 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Liebke, U. et al. Position of the Lhasa terrane prior to India–Asia collision derived from palaeomagnetic inclinations of 53 Ma old dykes of the Linzhou Basin: constraints on the age of collision and post-collisional shortening within the Tibetan Plateau. Geophys. J. Int. 182, 1199–1215 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Winnick, M. J., Caves, J. K. & Chamberlain, C. P. A mechanistic analysis of early Eocene latitudinal gradients of isotopes in precipitation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 8216–8224 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Yi, Z., Wang, T., Meert, J. G., Zhao, Q. & Liu, Y. An initial collision of India and Asia in the equatorial humid belt. Geophys. Res. Lett. 48, e2021GL093408 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Kapp, P. & DeCelles, P. G. Mesozoic–Cenozoic geological evolution of the Himalayan–Tibetan orogen and working tectonic hypotheses. Am. J. Sci. 319, 159–254 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Murphy, M. et al. Did the Indo–Asian collision alone create the Tibetan plateau? Geology 25, 719–722 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Rohrmann, A. et al. Thermochronologic evidence for plateau formation in central Tibet by 45 Ma. Geology 40, 187–190 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lai, W. et al. Initial growth of the northern Lhasaplano, Tibetan Plateau in the early Late Cretaceous (ca. 92 Ma). Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 131, 1823–1836 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  44. van Hinsbergen, D. J., Steinberger, B., Doubrovine, P. V. & Gassmöller, R. Acceleration and deceleration of India–Asia convergence since the Cretaceous: roles of mantle plumes and continental collision. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth https://doi.org/10.1029/2010JB008051 (2011).

  45. Gibbons, A., Zahirovic, S., Müller, R., Whittaker, J. & Yatheesh, V. A tectonic model reconciling evidence for the collisions between India, Eurasia and intra-oceanic arcs of the central-eastern Tethys. Gondwana Res. 28, 451–492 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Zhu, D., Wang, Q., Chung, S., Cawood, P. A. & Zhao, Z. Gangdese magmatism in southern Tibet and India–Asia convergence since 120 Ma. Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ. 483, 583–604 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Li, S. et al. Does pulsed Tibetan deformation correlate with Indian plate motion changes? Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 536, 116144 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Currie, B. S., Rowley, D. B. & Tabor, N. J. Middle Miocene paleoaltimetry of southern Tibet: implications for the role of mantle thickening and delamination in the Himalayan orogen. Geology 33, 181–184 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Spicer, R. A. et al. Constant elevation of southern Tibet over the past 15 million years. Nature 421, 622–624 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Kukla, T., Winnick, M. J., Maher, K., Ibarra, D. E. & Chamberlain, C. P. The sensitivity of terrestrial δ18O gradients to hydroclimate evolution. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 124, 563–582 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Ding, S. et al. Relationship between Linzizong volcanic rocks and mineralization: a case study of Sinongduo epithermal Ag–Pb–Zn deposit. Miner. Depos. 36, 1074–1092 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  52. Gleeson, S. A., Wilkinson, J., Boyce, A., Fallick, A. & Stuart, F. On the occurrence and wider implications of anomalously low δD fluids in quartz veins, South Cornwall, England. Chem. Geol. 160, 161–173 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Jenkin, G. R. T., O’Reilly C., Feely M. & Fallick A. E. in Geofluids II (eds Hendry, J. P. et al.) 374–377 (Queens University, 1997).

  54. Schoenemann, S. W., Schauer, A. J. & Steig, E. J. Measurement of SLAP2 and GISP δ17O and proposed VSMOW‐SLAP normalization for δ17O and 17Oexcess. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 27, 582–590 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Sharp, Z. D. & Wostbrock, J. A. G. Standardization for the triple oxygen isotope system: waters, silicates, carbonates, air, and sulfates. Rev. Mineral. Geochem. 86, 179–196 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Wostbrock, J. A., Cano, E. J. & Sharp, Z. D. An internally consistent triple oxygen isotope calibration of standards for silicates, carbonates and air relative to VSMOW2 and SLAP2. Chem. Geol. 533, 119432 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Hulston, J. & Thode, H. Variations in the S33, S34, and S36 contents of meteorites and their relation to chemical and nuclear effects. J. Geophys. Res. 70, 3475–3484 (1965).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Miller, M. F. Isotopic fractionation and the quantification of 17O anomalies in the oxygen three-isotope system: an appraisal and geochemical significance. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 66, 1881–1889 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Sharp, Z. D., Wostbrock, J. A. G. & Pack, A. Mass-dependent triple oxygen isotope variations in terrestrial materials. Geochem. Perspect. Lett. 7, 27–31 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Sha, L. et al. A novel application of triple oxygen isotope ratios of speleothems. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 270, 360–378 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Schauer, A. J., Schoenemann, S. W. & Steig, E. J. Routine high‐precision analysis of triple water–isotope ratios using cavity ring‐down spectroscopy. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 30, 2059–2069 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Sharp, Z. D. A laser-based microanalytical method for the in situ determination of oxygen isotope ratios of silicates and oxides. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 54, 1353–1357 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Ibarra, D. E., Kukla, T., Methner, K. A., Mulch, A. & Chamberlain, C. P. Reconstructing past elevations from triple oxygen isotopes of lacustrine chert: application to the Eocene Nevadaplano, Elko Basin, Nevada, USA. Front Earth Sci. 9, 628868 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Ibarra, D. E. et al. Triple oxygen isotope systematics of diagenetic recrystallization of diatom opal-A to opal-CT to microquartz in deep sea sediments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 320, 304–323 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Chapligin, B. et al. Inter-laboratory comparison of oxygen isotope compositions from biogenic silica. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 75, 7242–7256 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Menicucci, A. J., Matthews, J. A. & Spero, H. J. Oxygen isotope analyses of biogenic opal and quartz using a novel microfluorination technique. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 27, 1873–1881 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Saylor, J. E., Mora, A., Horton, B. K. & Nie, J. Controls on the isotopic composition of surface water and precipitation in the Northern Andes, Colombian Eastern Cordillera. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 73, 6999–7018 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Gébelin, A., Witt, C., Radkiewicz, M. & Mulch, A. Impact of the southern Ecuadorian Andes on oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in precipitation. Front Earth Sci. 9, 400 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Poage, M. A. & Chamberlain, C. P. Empirical relationships between elevation and the stable isotope composition of precipitation and surface waters: considerations for studies of paleoelevation change. Am. J. Sci. 301, 1–15 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Tian, C. et al. Triple isotope variations of monthly tap water in China. Sci. Data 7, 336 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Gázquez, F. et al. Triple oxygen and hydrogen isotopes of gypsum hydration water for quantitative paleo-humidity reconstruction. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 481, 177–188 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 41888101, 41790450, 41872105, 42222207) grants to C.W., H.C., J.D. and Y.G., Heising Simons grant to C.P.C. and the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (2019QZKK0204) grant to J.D. and C.W. D.E.I. was supported by the UC Berkley Miller Institute for Basic Research and UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowships, and K.M. was supported by the Feodor-Lynen-Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. We thank P. Blisniuk and M. K. Lloyd for help with the silicate triple oxygen isotope measurements at the Stanford University Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Laboratory and T. Kukla for detailed discussions on palaeoelevation reconstructions and relevant modern datasets.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

D.E.I., J.D., Y.G., C.P.C. and C.W. conceived the project and wrote the manuscript. Y.G. and J.D. coordinated sample collection, with X.L., J.C. and J.T. curating the rock samples and Z.G. and H.T. collecting the water samples. D.E.I., C.P.C. and K.M. performed the silicate triple oxygen isotope analyses at Stanford University. P.D. and L.S. performed the water triple oxygen isotope analyses with oversight from H.C. D.E.I., J.D., Y.G. and X.H. made the figures. D.Z. and Y.L. participated in discussion of data interpretation. All authors provided input on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chengshan Wang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Geoscience thanks Miquela Ingalls, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editors: Rebecca Neely and James Super, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Topographic map of the Tibetan Plateau showing quantitative paleoaltimetry studies and their major conclusions.

These results indicate that the Eocene high elevation of the proto-Tibetan Plateau covers most of the Lhasa and Qiangtang terranes, except for the central Tibetan valley where was lowland; while the Himalyas was also lowland during the Eocene. Abbreviations: YZSZ, Yarlung Zangbo Suture zone; BNSZ, Banggong Nujiang Suture zone; JSSZ, Jinshajiang Suture zone; AKSZ, Ayimaqin Kunlun Suture zone. References are listed in the Supplementary Information Table S2.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Time-paleoaltitude plots from palaeoaltimetry results.

a, The Gangdese Arc. b, The northern Lhasa and the BNSZ. c, The YZSZ and Himalayas. In plot a, dark blue and purple curves are extracted from b and c, respectively. Data points are presented as mean values for mean palaeoelevation ± 1σ, along with the mean age and its total range.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Stable isotopes of Tibetan water samples present in this study.

a. Meteoric water relationships showing the Tibetan meteoric water line (MWL, dashed blue line) for δ18O versus δD values relative to the global meteoric water line (GMWL, black line), δ18O versus d-excess values, and the triple oxygen Tibetan MWL (dashed blue line) compared to the GMWL (black line) in δ′18O versus δ′17O space. The GMWL is from Aron et al.27 and is indistinguishable from the Tibetan MWL, though in δ18O versus Δ′17O space the differences in slope and intercept are noticeable (see Extended Data Fig. 6). Horizontal lines in the second panel is for an intercept of 10 for the GMWL. b. δ18O values versus elevation, latitude, and longitude. Note that the data in the first panel is equivalent to Fig. 2b but including all precipitation as well as stream, river and snowpack data. c. Δ′17O values versus elevation, latitude and longitude. On all panels data from Kukla et al.50 are the small circles, and data from this study and Tian et al.25,70 are the large blue diamonds.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Microscopic characteristics of the rhyolite porphyry and crystal tuff from the Sinongduo epithermal Ag-Pb-Zn deposit.

a,d,e, Rhyolite porphyry. b,c,f, Crystal tuff. Q, quartz; Q vein, quartz vein; Py, pyrite; Chal, chalcedony; Chal vein, chalcedony vein; Ser, sericite; Pl, plagioclase.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Sensitivity of results to the choice of formation temperature and Inclusion of additional quartz measurements.

a. Sensitivity of results to choice of formation temperature using the 210 °C fluid inclusion formation temperature rather than the paired galena-sphalerite sulphur isotope temperature (240 °C, Fig. 2a) (both datasets from Li et al.31). b. Inclusion of additional quartz measurements (Extended Data Table 2) from nearby localities in regression (green circles) using the sulphur isotope formation temperature (240 °C) as in Fig. 2a. Data points are presented as mean values ± 1SE of individual measurements. Dashed line with confidence intervals (1σ, gray shading) is the error-weighted York regression.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Sensitivity of results to the choice of triple oxygen meteoric water line.

a. Global meteoric water line from Aron et al.27: δ′17 O = 0.5268 × δ′18 O + 0.015, which is nearly identical to that of Sharp et al.59. b. The original global meteoric water line from Luz and Barkan28. For both plots we assume the a formation temperature of 240 °C, as in Fig. 2a, and the results are indistinguishable from the main text results. Data points are presented as mean values ± 1SE of individual measurements. Dashed line with confidence intervals (1σ, gray shading) is the error-weighted York regression.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Sensivity of meteoric water oxygen isotopic composition to formation temperature across a wide temperature range and the assumed rainfall δ18O value at sea level.

a. Sensivity of meteoric water oxygen isotopic composition to formation temperature across a wide temperature range (125–450 °C). The mean and standard deviation (black line and grey bar) of the two quatz formation temperature datasets from Li et al.31 are shown across the top. Dashed line show the York regression confidence interval’s intercept with the Tibet meteoric water line derived from this work (Fig. 2a). The blue triangle represent our best estimate palaeo-meteoric δ18O value using the galena-sphalerite sulphur isotope temperature (240 °C). b. Sensivitiy of meteoric water oxygen isotopic composition to the assumed rainfall δ18O value at sea level. The mean and errors (black line and grey bar) of rainfall δ18O values used by Ding et al.8 (also used in this study), Ingalls et al.9, and Rowley and Currie7 are shown above, with an alternative higher estimate from Hren et al.26 based on modern data.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Sensitivity of our calculations to the choice of slope and intercept of the Paleocene MWL for Tibet.

a. Contours of the oxygen isotopic composition of the calculated palaeo-meteoric water assuming 240 °C formation temperature (as in Fig. 2a) for plausible range in MWL slopes (λ) and intercepts (γ). The modern MWL slope and intercept estimates from previous work (global and regional) mentioned in the text are shown by grey points (BL10: Luz and Barkan28; PJ19: Passey and Ji30; A20: Aron et al.27). The error bars on the mean values for the Tibet MWL are 1σ as reported in the text (and shown in Extended Data Fig. 1a) and propagated in our calculations. The light blue symbols are the seasonal and annual slope and intercepts from the Tian et al.25,70 dataset from Lhasa and Nyingchi. With seasonal slopes derived for a more extensive region by Tian et al.25 (Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; see their Table 3) shown across the top of the plot. b. Same as panel a but for the mean palaeoelevation estimate using the model of Rowley and Garzione22 as in Fig. 2b. The purple zone illustrates the postive relationship between the seasonal slopes and intercepts derived in this study and the global meteoric water lines reported by previous work24,25,27. Confidence shading is 1σ in both panels.

Extended Data Table 1 Triple Oxygen isotope measurements of river water and snowmelt water from the Tibetan plateau. All samples reported on the VSMOW2-SLAP2 scale
Extended Data Table 2 Triple oxygen isotope measurements of quartz and whole rock samples from the Sinonguo epithermal deposit (BZK samples) and associated deposits (T, WZK and BQZK samples)

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 and Texts 1–3.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ibarra, D.E., Dai, J., Gao, Y. et al. High-elevation Tibetan Plateau before India–Eurasia collision recorded by triple oxygen isotopes. Nat. Geosci. 16, 810–815 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01243-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01243-x

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing