Lower Cretaceous Xigaze ophiolites formed in the Gangdese forearc: evidence from paleomagnetism, sediment provenance, and stratigraphy

Wentao Huang*, Douwe J J van Hinsbergen, Marco Maffione, Devon A. Orme, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Carl Guilmette, Lin Ding, Zhaojie Guo, Paul Kapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


The India-Asia suture zone of southern Tibet exposes Lower Cretaceous Xigaze ophiolites and radiolarian cherts, and time-equivalent Asian-derived clastic forearc sedimentary rocks (Xigaze Group). These ophiolites have been interpreted to have formed in the forearc of the north-dipping subduction zone below Tibet that produced the Gangdese magmatic arc around 15-20°N, or in the forearc of a sub-equatorial intra-oceanic subduction zone. To better constrain the latitude of the ophiolites, we carried out an integrated paleomagnetic, geochronologic and stratigraphical study on epi-ophiolitic radiolarites (Chongdui and Bainang sections), and Xigaze Group turbiditic sandstones unconformably overlying the ophiolite's mantle units (Sangsang section). Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology of tuffaceous layers from the Chongdui section and sandstones of the Xigaze Group at the Sangsang section provides maximum depositional ages of 116.5. ±. 3.1 Ma and 128.8. ±. 3.4 Ma, respectively, for the Chongdui section and an Asian provenance signature for the Xigaze Group. Paleomagnetic analyses, integrated with rock magnetic experiments, indicate significant compaction-related inclination 'shallowing' of the remanence within the studied rocks. Two independent methods are applied for the inclination shallowing correction of the paleomagnetic directions from the Sangsang section, yielding consistent mean paleolatitudes of 16.2°N [13°N, 20.9°N] and 16.8°N [11.1°N, 23.3°N], respectively. These results are indistinguishable from recent paleolatitude estimates for the Gangdese arc in southern Tibet. Radiolarites from the Chongdui and Bainang sections yield low paleomagnetic inclinations that would suggest a sub-equatorial paleolatitude, but the distribution of the paleomagnetic directions in these rocks strongly suggests a low inclination bias by compaction. Our data indicate that spreading of the Xigaze ophiolite occurred in the Gangdese forearc, and formed the basement of the forearc strata.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-153
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date14 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Inclination shallowing
  • Paleomagnetism and rock magnetism
  • Sedimentary contact
  • Xigaze ophiolite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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