Quaternary Climate Change and the Formation of River Terraces across Growing Anticlines on the North Flank of the Tien Shan, China

Peter Molnar, Erik Thorson Brown, B. Clark Burchfiel, Qidong Deng, Xianyue Feng, Jun Li, Grant M. Raisbeck, Jianbang Shi, Wu Zhangming, Françoise Yiou, Huichuan You

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Nested stream terraces, warped upward over actively growing anticlines along the north flank of the Tien Shan in western China, appear to record alternating phases of valley widening and incision. Differences of relative heights between remnants of four separate strath terraces along one river and between two such terraces along another reach 100 to 120 m over the crests of the anticlines. We infer that this spacing is due to alternating stages of valley widening and rapid incision associated with climate changes with a periodicity of 100 kyr. The crests of the anticlines appear to emerge from the aggrading flanks of the anticlines at an average rate of about 1 mm/a. The maximum heights of 25 and 35 ( ± 10) m for the lowest terraces above their projected initial profiles imply ages of roughly 25 kyr and 35 kyr ( ± 10 kyr). Hence, they suggest that flood plains, which were abandoned to form the terraces, developed adjacent to active stream beds during the last glacial period, when climates were relatively cold and dry. We presume that they were incised during deglacial periods when discharges and stream power increased. Apparent durations of exposure, obtained from $^{10}Be$ in quartz cobbles lying on the surface of the lower terrace from one anticline, concur with abandonment and deep (~150 m) incision of the flood plain during the last global deglaciation (ca. 20 to 13 kyr B.P.). A minimum carbon-14 date of 33.9 kyr B.P. from deposits on the lowest terrace sequence from the other anticline, however, implies that such abandonment and incision of this flood plain occurred before the most recent global glacial maximum, about 20 kyr B.P. We infer that incision of this second anticline's floodplain began during an earlier deglacial epoch within the last glacial period (between about 70 and 20 kyr, and perhaps near 35 kyr B.P.).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-602
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1994

Bibliographical note

doi: 10.1086/629700

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