The Tibetan Plateau, a land mass nearly the size of the lower half of the United States, was thrust skyward when the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided about 50 million years ago. But existing models of the order of events following the impact may be wrong, according to a recent report.
By claiming that the more northern regions of the plateau formed early in the aftermath, the report contradicts current views, which suggest that crustal contortions and uplift began where continents collided at the southern border of the Eurasian plate and gradually rippled northward.
In search of hard evidence to test the models, researchers ventured into the Hoh Xil Basin, a northern region of the plateau in China where few dare go because of the snow, high altitude, visas, military headquarters, and other challenges, explains Xixi Zhao, a geophysicist from the University of California, Santa Cruz, who participated in the study.
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