Does glaciation preserve the Tibetan plateau?

At first glance this section’s title seems absurd, for glaciation has the highest potential for erosion that there is on Earth. Yet it seems that at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau the long-term potential for river erosion has been impeded by glacial action (Korup, O. & Montgomery, D.R. 2008. Tibetan plateau river incision inhibited by glacial stabilisation of the Tsangpo gorge. Nature, v. 455, p. 786-789). The accepted wisdom is that in the course of powerful rivers, such as the Tsangpo, steep stretches or ‘knick points’ focus erosion that proceeds headwards to drive a wave of dissection towards the sources of the main river and of all its tributaries. The Tsangpo has had the better part of 40-50 Ma since the India-Asia collision to eat away the vast Tibetan Plateau, but it has failed, as have other, lesser river systems. Repeatedly emplaced moraine dams, seem to have locked the knick points associated with the Tsangpo catchment at around 260 separate locations.

See also: Owen, L.A. 2008. How Tibet might keep its edge. Nature, v. 455, p. 748-749.

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