Tectonic models for the Oligocene–Miocene development of the Himalaya mountain range are largely focused on crustal-scale processes, and developed along orogen-perpendicular cross sections. Such models assume uniformity along the length of the Himalaya, but significant along-strike tectonic variations occur, highlighting a need for three-dimensional evolutionary models of Himalayan orogenesis. Here we show a strong temporal correlation of southward motion of the Indian slab relative to the overriding Himalayan orogen, lateral migration of slab detachment, and subsequent dynamic rebound with major changes in Himalayan metamorphism, deformation, and exhumation. Slab detachment was also coeval with South Asian monsoon intensification, which leads us to hypothesize their genetic link. We further propose that anchoring of the Indian continental subducted lithosphere from 30 to 25 Ma steepened the dip of the Himalayan sole thrust, resulting in crustal shortening deep within the Himalayan orogenic wedge. During the subsequent ∼13 m.y., slab detachment propagated inward from both Himalayan syntaxes. Resultant dynamic rebound terminated deep crustal shortening and caused a rapid rise of the mountain range. The increased orography intensified the South Asian monsoon. Decreased compressive forces in response to slab detachment may explain an observed ∼25% decrease in the India-Eurasia convergence rate. The asymmetric curvature of the arc, i.e., broadly open, but tighter to the east, suggests faster slab detachment migration from the west than from the east. Published Lu-Hf garnet dates for eclogite facies metamorphism in the east-central Himalaya as old as ca. 38–34 Ma may offer a test that the new model fails, because the model predicts that such metamorphism would be restricted to middle Miocene time. Alternatively, these dates may provide a case study to test suspicions that Lu-Hf garnet dates can exceed actual ages.
- Received 16 December 2016.
- Revision received 7 March 2017.
- Accepted 22 March 2017.
- © Geological Society of America