Protracted Thrusting Followed by Late Rapid Cooling of the Greater Himalayan Sequence, Annapurna Himalaya, Central Nepal: Insights from Titanite Petrochronology

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The Greater Himalayan Sequence (GHS) has commonly been treated as a large coherently deforming high-grade tectonic package, exhumed primarily by simultaneous thrust- and normal-sense shearing on its bounding structures and erosion along its frontal exposure. A new paradigm, developed over the past decade, suggests that the GHS is not a single high-grade lithotectonic unit, but consists of in-sequence thrust sheets. In this study, we examine this concept in central Nepal by integrating temperaturetime (T–t) paths, based on coupled Zr-in-titanite thermometry and U–Pb geochronology for upper GHS calcsilicates, with traditional thermobarometry, textural relationships and field mapping. Peak Zr-in-titanite temperatures are 760–850°C at 10–13 kbar, and U–Pb ages of titanite range from c. 30 to c. 15 Ma. Sector zoning of Zr and distribution of U–Pb ages within titanite suggest that diffusion rates of Zr and Pb are slower than experimentally determined rates, and these systems remain unaffected into the lower granulite facies. Two types of T–t paths occur across the Chame Shear Zone (CSZ). Between c. 25 and 17–16 Ma, hangingwall rocks cool at rates of 1–10°C/Ma, while footwall rocks heat at rates of 1–10°C/Ma. Over the same interval, temperatures increase structurally upwards through the hangingwall, but by 17–16 Ma temperatures converge. In contrast, temperatures decrease upwards in footwall rocks at all times. While the footwall is interpreted as an intact, structurally upright section, the thermometric inversion within the hangingwall suggests thrusting of hotter rocks over colder from c. 25 to c. 17–16 Ma. Retrograde hydration that is restricted to the hangingwall, and a lithological repetition of orthogneiss are consistent with thrust-sense shear on the CSZ. The CSZ is structurally higher than previously identified intra-GHS thrusts in central Nepal, and thrusting duration was 3–6 Ma longer than proposed for other intra-GHS thrusts in this region. Cooling rates for both the hangingwall and footwall of the CSZ are comparable to or faster than rates for other intra-GHS thrust sheets in Nepal. The overlap in high-T titanite U–Pb ages and previously published muscovite 40Ar/39Ar cooling ages imply cooling rates for the hangingwall of ≥200°C/Ma after thrusting. Causes of rapid cooling include passive exhumation driven by a combination of duplexing in the Lesser Himalayan Sequence, and juxtaposition of cooler rocks on top of the GHS by the STDS. Normal-sense displacement does not appear to affect T–t paths for rocks immediately below the STDS prior to 17–16 Ma.