Late Pleistocene-Holocene flood history, flood-sediment provenance and human imprints from the upper Indus River catchment, Ladakh Himalaya

Sharma, Choudhurimayum Pankaj, Chahal, Poonam, Kumar, Anil, Singhal, Saurabh, Sundriyal, Y. P., Ziegler, Alan, Agnihotri, Rajesh, Wasson, Robert J., Shukla, Uma Kant, and Srivastava, Pradeep (2022) Late Pleistocene-Holocene flood history, flood-sediment provenance and human imprints from the upper Indus River catchment, Ladakh Himalaya. GSA Bulletin, 134. 1-2. pp. 275-292.

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Abstract

The Indus River, originating from Manasarovar Lake in Tibet, runs along the Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone (ITSZ) in Ladakh which separates the Tethyan Himalaya in the south from the Karakoram Zone to the north. Due to the barriers created by the Pir-Panjal ranges and the High Himalaya, Ladakh is located in a rain shadow zone of the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) making it a high-altitude desert. Occasional catastrophic hydrological events are known to endanger lives and properties of people residing there. Evidence of such events in the recent geologic past that are larger in magnitude than modern occurrences, are preserved along the channels. Detailed investigation of these archives is imperative to expand our knowledge of extreme floods that rarely occur on the human timescale. Understanding the frequency, distribution and forcing mechanisms of past extreme floods of this region are crucial to examine whether the causal agents are regional, global or both on long timescales. We studied the Holocene extreme flood history of the Upper Indus catchment in Ladakh using slack water deposits (SWDs) preserved along the Indus and Zanskar Rivers. SWDs here are composed of stacks of sand-silt couplets deposited rapidly during large flooding events in areas where a sharp reduction of flow velocity is caused by local geomorphic conditions. Each couplet represents a flood, the age of which is constrained using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) for sand and AMS 14C for charcoal specks from hearths. The study suggests occurrence of large floods during phases of strengthened ISM when the monsoon penetrated into arid Ladakh. Comparison with flood records of rivers draining other regions of the Himalaya and those influenced by the East Asian Summer Monsoon (EASM) indicates asynchronicity with the Western Himalaya that confirms the existing anti-phase relationship of the ISM-EASM occurred in the Holocene. Detrital zircon provenance analysis indicates that sediment transportation along the Zanskar River is more efficient than the main Indus channel during extreme floods. Post LGM human migration, during warm and wet climatic conditions, into the arid upper Indus catchment is revealed from hearths found within the SWDs.

Item ID: 68144
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1943-2674
Keywords: Paleofloods Ladakh Himalaya Indus River
Copyright Information: © 2021 Geological Society of America
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2021 05:49
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3709 Physical geography and environmental geoscience > 370901 Geomorphology and earth surface processes @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1904 Natural hazards > 190404 Hydrological hazards (e.g. avalanches and floods) @ 100%
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