Why the ‘Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau’ is a myth

Robert A Spicer*, Tao Su, Paul J Valdes, Alexander Farnsworth, Fei-Xiang Wu, Gongle Shi, Teresa E V Spicer, Zhekun Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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The often-used phrase ‘the Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau’ implies a flat-surfaced Tibet rose as a coherent entity, and that uplift was driven entirely by the collision and northward movement of India. Here we argue that these are misconceptions derived in large part from simplistic geodynamic and climate modelling, as well as proxy misinterpretation. The growth of Tibet was a complex process involving mostly Mesozoic collisions of several Gondwanan terranes with Asia, thickening the crust and generating complex relief before the arrival of India. In this review Earth System Modelling, paleoaltimetry proxies and fossil finds contribute to a new synthetic view of the topographic evolution of Tibet. A notable feature overlooked in previous models of plateau formation was the persistence through much of the Cenozoic of a wide east-west orientated deep central valley, and the formation of a plateau occurred only in the late Neogene through compression and internal sedimentation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbernwaa091
Number of pages19
JournalNational Science Review
Issue number1
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 May 2020


  • Tibet
  • paleoaltimetry
  • paleogeography
  • palaeontology
  • Himalaya


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