Transpressional tectonics and stream terraces of the Gobi-Altay, Mongolia



[1] We studied the patterns, rates and evolution of fluvial terraces and fault system during the building process of an intracontinental transpressional mountain in the Gobi-Altay (Mongolia). By analyzing incisions and offsets of fluvial terraces and alluvial fans, we show that the massif has grown by outward migration of thrust faults through time. On the northern flank, the present bounding thrust fault began its activity ∼600 ka ago, while a more internal sub-parallel fault was still active until ∼200-100 ka. Vertical offset of an alluvial fan abandoned ∼100 ka ago allows an estimate of 0.1 mm/yr Upper Pleistocene - Holocene uplift rate. The morphology of the catchment-piedmont system strongly suggests a periodical formation of the alluvial surfaces, controlled by the climatic pulses, at the beginning of the wet interglacial periods. The abandonment of the alluvial terraces lags by several thousand years the abandonment of the alluvial fans, showing a diachronous incision propagating upstream. The incision rate deduced from the different elevations of straths exceeds of one order of magnitude the rock uplift rate. This excess is mostly due to ongoing drainage network growth at the core of the massif, and incision due to alluvial apron entrenchment near the outlet. This implies that fluvial response is mainly controlled by drainage growth, interaction with piedmont and cyclic climatic variations, rather than by rock uplift.