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Internally-driven, transient incision from river capture: Sutlej River, western Himalaya
  • Brian Penserini
Brian Penserini
University of California Santa Barbara

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Topographic features are commonly interpreted to represent interactions between tectonic and climate-driven processes. However, recent work has highlighted how drainage reorganization from river capture may produce landscapes that resemble those generated by changing tectonic conditions and emphasized the importance of developing tools and metrics to identify the source of landscape transience (Yang et al., 2015; Whipple et al., 2017). While few studies have sought to estimate the rates and magnitudes of increased transient incision resulting from river capture (e.g. Prince et al., 2011, Yanites et al., 2013), the ability to quantify river capture-related incision is vital to improve our characterization of landscape responses to transience. This work tests the hypothesis that the observed incision and distribution of knickpoints in the Sutlej river network of the western Himalaya is the result of an ongoing transient response to a large-scale river capture event that occurred in the late Pleistocene. A combination of topographic analyses using digital elevation models, knickpoint propagation modeling, 1-D numerical incision modeling, and landscape evolution modeling are used in conjunction with new and existing field-derived data (e.g. cosmogenic radionuclide-derived erosion rates and (U-Th)/He and fission track thermochronology) to quantify the magnitude and timing of the transient landscape response. Redistribution of drainage area and the subsequent enhancement of incision along the Sutlej may explain the increased amounts of Himalayan detritus delivered to the Indus fan since 5 Ma (Clift and Blusztajn, 2005). Similar large-scale river capture events proposed throughout the Himalaya (e.g. Garzione et al., 2003; Van Der Beek et al., 2018), suggest that capture events may be a regional phenomenon inherent to the Himalayan orogen and imply that river capture may be an important contributor to the distribution of sediment along collisional margins.