Epeirogenic histories of highland areas have confounded earth scientists for decades, as there are few sedimentary records of paleoelevation in eroding highlands. For example, mechanisms that have led to the high elevations of the Hangay Mountains in central Mongolia are not clear, nor is it well understood how the epeirogenic history of central Mongolia is connected to that of a broader region of high elevation that extends hundreds of kilometers to the north, east, and west. However, preserved basaltic lava flows record paleoelevation in the size distributions of vesicles at the tops and bottoms of flow units. As an initial step toward better understanding the tectonics of this part of Asia, we collected and analyzed samples from several basaltic lava flows from throughout the Hangay Mountains to use as a paleoaltimeter on the basis of lava flow vesicularity. Samples were dated and scanned with x-ray tomography to provide quantitative information regarding their internal vesicle size distributions. This yielded the pressure difference between the top and bottom of each flow for paleoelevation calculation. Results suggest that the Hangay Mountains experienced uplift of more than 1 km sometime during the past 9 m.yr. The magnitude of uplift of the Hangay, in addition to the composition of its lavas, the geomorphology of the region, its drainage pattern history, and other proxies, bears on possible mechanisms for uplift of this part of central Asia.


Earth Systems Research Center

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The Journal of Geology


University of Chicago Press

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This is an article published by University of Chicago Press in The Journal of Geology in 2016, available online: