The generation and destruction of ocean basins on geologic timescales associated with Earth's plate tectonic system is a fundamental process that strongly influences climate patterns and ocean circulation, the location and timing of mountain building events, and the evolution and distribution of organisms. This project is testing the hypothesis that the Paleo-Tethys Ocean--an ancient ocean basin between Eurasia and Gondwana--closed in a tectonic style analogous to the modern ongoing closure of the western Mediterranean Sea. This hypothesis is motivated by the geographical proximity of ancient continent-continent collision zones within Asia to the geologic remnants of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean and the striking similarity of this tectonic assemblage to the modern western Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean-style model we are testing is counter to other tectonic models that suggest collisions between continents and high-pressure metamorphism of continental crust marks the demise of an ocean basin and the end of oceanic subduction. In contrast, the Mediterranean-style model involves the birth and rapid expansion of an ocean basin adjacent to the colliding continents. In addition to explicitly testing a Mediterranean-style closure of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean, alternative hypotheses will be implicitly tested in this project. Hypothesis testing will involve the structural and stratigraphic analysis of rocks in and around the Tibetan Plateau, and the determination of ages and geochemical compositions of individual minerals and rock samples. This project is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative research effort between faculty, researchers, and students at the University of Rochester and the West Virginia University along with scientists from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1118525
Program Officer
Stephen S. Harlan
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-10-01
Budget End
2014-09-30
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$230,482
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Rochester
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Rochester
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
14627