Current strain accumulation in the hinterland of the northwest Himalaya constrained by landscape analyses, basin-wide denudation rates, and low temperature thermochronology
Rupture associated with the 25 April 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha (Nepal) earthquake highlighted our incomplete understanding of the structural architecture and seismic cycle processes that lead to Himalayan mountain building in Central Nepal. In this paper we investigate the style and kinematics of active mountain building in the Himalayan hinterland of Northwest India, approximately 400 km to the west of the hypocenter of the Nepal earthquake, via a combination of landscape metrics and long- (Ma) and short-term (ka) erosion rate estimates (from low temperature thermochronometry and basin-wide denudation rate estimates from 10Be concentrations). We focus our analysis on the area straddling the PT2, the physiographic transition between the Lesser and High Himalaya that has yielded important insights into the nature of hinterland deformation across much of the Himalaya. Our results from Northwest India reveal a distinctive PT2 that separates a Lesser Himalaya region with moderate relief (∼1000 m) and relatively slow erosion ( < 1 mm/yr) from a High Himalaya with extreme relief (∼2500 m), steep channels, and erosion rates that approach or exceed 1 mm/yr. The close spatial similarity in relative rates of long- and short-term erosion suggests that the gradient in rock uplift rates inferred from the landscape metrics across the PT2 has persisted in the same relative position since at least the past 1.5 Ma. We interpret these observations to suggest that strain accumulation in this hinterland region throughout at least the past 1.5 Ma has been accomplished both by crustal thickening via duplexing and overthrusting along transient emergent faults. Despite the > 400 km distance between them, similar spatiotemporal patterns of erosion and deformation observed in Northwest India and Central Nepal suggest both regions experience similar styles of active strain accumulation and both are susceptible to large seismic events.