, Volume 47, Issue 1–2, pp 3–276 | Cite as

Reconstruction of an approximately complete Quaternary Tibetan inland glaciation between the Mt. Everest- and Cho Oyu Massifs and the Aksai Chin. A new glaciogeomorphological SE–NW diagonal profile through Tibet and its consequences for the glacial isostasy and Ice Age cycle

  • Matthias Kuhle


Studies were done on new geomorphological and quaternary-geological profiles through representative reliefs of Tibet from the Central Himalaya as far as the Kuenlun. Thus, further detailed investigations on the prehistoric glaciation could be carried out. Youngest historical to neoglacial ice margin positions could be recorded. Their mapping took place in a downward direction from the modern glacier margins. They confirm snow line (ELA) depressions from decametres up to ca. 100–250 m. At distances of several kilometres to many decakilometres (depending on the relief) from the modern glaciers, névé shields and perennial snow fields, end moraines and later just remnants of lateral moraines and kame complexes of the Late Glacial (ca. Stadia IV-II) have been localized in an increasing disrupted succession and samples have been taken. The recorded, inter- and extrapolated lowest ice margin positions allowed the reconstruction of accompanying depressions of the snow line which, due to the altitude of the Tibetan plateau plains, attained a maximum of 400–700 m. Accordingly, the early Late Glacial (Stadia I to II) and High Glacial glacier traces (Riss or pre-LGM and Würm or LGM = Stadia −I and/or 0) occurred over a horizontal distance of 1620 km across the plateau with an average height of 4700 m asl without showing the key forms of ice margin positions. From the profiles introduced here, running from Mt. Everest/Cho Oyu (Central Himalaya) in the SE via Gertse (Kaitse; Central Tibet) as far as the Lingzi Thang and Aksai Chin and from there into the Kuenlun, as well as from a parallel section of the Gurla Mandhata (central S Tibet) to the currently very arid Nako Tso, located centrally in the W, sediment samples have been analysed which provide evidence for a ground moraine genesis. Thus, the macroscopic field observations are confirmed. Only the relatively small basin of Shiquanha (Ali) – like the Indus valley chamber of Leh – may have been free of ice during the High Glacial (LGM). Forms of glacial horns, as well as roches moutonnées and large, several metres-high round-polished mountain ridges with slight debris covers, flank polishings, abraded mountain spurs at intermediate valley ridges and high-lying erratics document the widespread ice cover. Important ice thicknesses of at least 1300–1400 m have been recognized by means of transfluences. Especially by and in the Nako Tso (lake) the limnic undercutting of roches moutonnées provides evidence only of a postglacial filling into a primary glacial relief. The glacial ice cover (with the LGM at the end) testified here for a further area of Tibet, is the foundation of the relief-specific hypothesis on the development of the Ice Ages, based on the global radiation geometry: accordingly, the last great geological event, the early Pleistocene plate-tectonically induced uplift of Tibet above the snow line, has brought about a glaciation which, owing to its high albedo, reflected the subtropical radiation energy into space, so that it could not be exploited for the heating of the atmosphere. This may have triggered the Ice Ages. The repeated interglacial warming-up is to be reduced to the positive radiation anomalies by the variations of the parameters of the earth's orbit – which take place rhythmically – and the overlying glacio-isostatic lowering of Tibet and the other inland ice areas.


Ground Moraine Late Glacial Lateral Moraine Glacier Tongue Valley Flank 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Kuhle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany (Fax

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