Introduction

Collisional mountain ranges form some of the most spectacular and dominant features on the surface of the Earth. Examples include the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen, the Appalachians, the Caledonides, the European Alps, the Urals (Section 11.5.5), the Southern Alps of New Zealand (Sections 8.3.3, 8.6.3), and many of the Proterozoic orogens (e.g. Section 11.4.3). The anatomy of these belts is highly diverse, in part due to differences in the size, shape, and mechanical strength of the colliding plates, and the effects of different precollisional tectonic histories. In addition, continental collision can range from being highly oblique, such as occurs on the South Island of New Zealand, to nearly orthogonal. These differences greatly influence the mechanisms of collisional orogenesis (Section 10.4.6).

The Himalayan-Tibetan orogen (Fig. 10.13) is one of the best places to study a large-scale continent-continent collision that followed the closure of a major ocean basin and formed an orogenic plateau. The active tectonics, diverse structure, and relatively well-known plate boundary history of this belt allow many tectonic relationships to be measured directly and provide important constraints on the driving mechanisms of deformation and the manner in which deformation is accommodated (Yin & Harrison, 2000). In addition, the immense size and high elevations of this orogen illustrate how mountain building and global climate are interrelated. These interactions form important elements of orogenesis in most, if not all, tectonic settings.

This section provides a discussion of four main aspects of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen: (i) the relative motion of Indian and Eurasia and their tectonic history prior to collision; (ii) the nature of post-colli-sional convergent deformation as revealed by seismicity and geodetic data; (iii) the geologic history of the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau; and (iv) the deep structure of the orogen. Section 10.4.6 provides a discussion of the main factors controlling the mechanical evolution of the orogen.

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