The margins surrounding the Tibetan Plateau show some diversity in topographic gradient. The most striking example is the eastern Tibetan margin bordered by the Longmen Shan range, which is characterized by a remarkably steep topography transition between eastern Tibet and the Sichuan Basin. There is significant uncertainty over whether this margin was formed by crustal shortening or lower-crustal flow. To investigate the formation mechanism of steep convergent intracontinental margins, we conducted petrological-thermomechanical numerical simulations based on the lithospheric structure and thermal state of the eastern Tibetan margin. Our numerical experiments demonstrate that a very steep topographic gradient, such as the eastern Tibetan margin, is an inherent characteristic of convergence between a hot and weak lithosphere with thick crust and a cold and strong lithosphere with thin crust. Although lower-crustal flow has potentially contributed to the crustal thickness difference between the two convergent blocks, it is not a prerequisite for the growth of steep convergent intracontinental margin. Rather, the topography at the margin can be explained by a near isostatic response to crustal thickening resulting from shortening.
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