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Influence of periodic climate changes on the evolution of mountain ranges (Geocycl)
Start date: Sep 1, 2008, End date: Aug 31, 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Recent studies have highlighted complex linkages among erosion, tectonics and climate in active mountain belts. Although the exact nature of those interactions is still widely debated, clearly they have a crucial impact on the evolution of geologic systems. Furthermore, it is well known that Late Cenozoic climate oscillates between glacial and interglacial periods at time scales of 10-100 kyrs. Yet, the effects of climate variability at these frequencies are seldom considered in studies of the evolution of active mountain belts. For this reason, we propose to investigate the impact of oscillating climate in such settings. We are motivated to understand how specific climatic frequencies influence the rates, patterns and modalities of tectonic deformation and surface processes in those contexts. We hypothesize that the dynamics of orogens are sensitive at “climatic” timescales to the removal and imposition of loads via erosion and glacial or sedimentary loading, respectively. Our study will focus on the Central Himalayas: a highly suitable site given its tectonic and geomorphic activity and the large dataset available. We will examine the climatically dependent, time and space evolution of fluvial and glacial erosion and explore the impact on the tectonic and geomorphic evolution of the range. To achieve those goals we will develop an integrated approach that spans spatial scales ranging from the catchment to the whole mountain range, in order to capture the specific processes involved and reconcile them over the different scales. A key element of this research will be its multidisciplinarity with coordinated use of numerical modelling of tectonic and erosional processes, quantitative geomorphology and Cosmogenic Radionuclides. This project is expected to deliver essential insights on the dynamics of the tectonics/erosion/climate coupled system and to provide a critical perspective concerning the potential impact of current climate change on geological systems.
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