The growth of high topography on the Tibetan Plateau in Sichuan, China, began much earlier than previously thought, according to an international team of geologists who looked at mountain ranges along the eastern edge of the plateau. The Indian tectonic plate began its collision with Asia between 55 and 50 million years ago, but "significant topographic relief existed adjacent to the Sichuan Basin prior to the Indo-Asian collision," the researchers report online in Nature Geoscience. "Most researchers have thought that high topography in eastern Tibet developed during the past 10 to 15 million years, as deep crust beneath the central Tibetan Plateau flowed to the plateau margin, thickening the Earth's crust in this area and causing surface uplift," said Eric Kirby, associate professor of geoscience at Penn State. "Our study suggests that high topography began to develop as early as 30 million years ago, and perhaps was present even earlier."
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