Magnetostratigraphy of Tertiary sediments from the Hoh Xil Basin: implications for the Cenozoic tectonic history of the Tibetan Plateau



We conducted an integrated palaeomagnetic and stratigraphic study on a 5452.8 m thick sedimentary sequence of the Hoh Xil Basin in northern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to obtain a chronostratigraphic framework for these sediments. A total of 966 individual oriented palaeomagnetic samples (spaced at stratigraphic intervals) were collected from six measured sections in the Hoh Xil Basin. Magnetic directions in these samples were obtained by progressive thermal (mainly) and alternating-field demagnetization experiments. Most samples exhibit two components of magnetization. The lower unblocking temperature component is an overprint resembling the present-day geocentric axial dipole field direction at the sampling locality. The most stable, characteristic remanence (ChRM) appears to be an early chemical remanent magnetization residing mainly in haematite. The positive results of fold and reversal tests indicate that the ChRM is a record of the palaeomagnetic field close to the time of formation of these sediments. Further evidence for the magnetization of these sediments acquired close to their time of deposition is the fact that patterns of magnetic reversals can be matched with the established polarity timescale. On the basis of the distinct interval of magnetic reversal zones and biostratigraphic datums, 13 magnetozones can be recognized at the Hoh Xil Basin that range from chrons C11 to C23 (30.1–51.0 Ma). The age of the Fenghuoshan Group is palaeomagnetically dated as 51–31 Ma (Early Eocene–Middle Early Oligocene), and the age of the Yaxicuo Group is between 31 and 30 Ma (Middle Early Oligocene–Late Early Oligocene). The new palaeomagnetic data from the Fenghuoshan Group suggest that it has undergone no significant rotation since the Oligocene. In contrast, declination data from the Yaxicuo Group in Wudaoliang area imply a vertical-axis clockwise rotation (29.1°± 8.5°) since the Late Oligocene. The Tertiary palaeomagnetic pole position of the Hoh Xil Basin implies a significant northward convergence of the Hoh Xil Basin (∼1600 km) with respect to Eurasia (Siberia) since Early Eocene–Late Oligocene time. Our results are consistent with the pattern of disturbingly low palaeolatitudes derived from a large number of high-quality palaeomagnetic studies of Tertiary rocks from sites that reach all the way from eastern China to Kyrgyzstan. Future work is needed to separate the influences of sedimentary inclination shallowing and tectonic shortening.