C. Page Chamberlain, Stanford University, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences

Late Cenozoic Topographic History of the Western United States - as Seen Through Stable Isotopes

  • DINNER MEETING - Tuesday, February 11, 2003
  • Location: Stanford University

  • 5:30 PM-Wine Tasting: . . . Mitchell Bldg., first floor
  • 6:15 PM-Dinner: . . . Mitchell Bldg., first floor
  • 7:30 PM-Meeting: . . . Bloch Lecture Hall (TCSEQ Room 201)

    see Map showing Mitchell
    Map showing Bloch

    Anyone wishing to attend the lecture only is welcome at no cost.

    This will be the 352nd meeting since 1954.


    The paleorelief of mountain belts can be estimated from the deltaD and delta^18O of authigenic minerals. Development of relief during mountain building often creates lee-side rain shadows in which precipitation is depleted in ^18O and D. The magnitude of this rain shadow effect is strongly correlated to relief in a predictable manner. We compiled delta^18O of surface waters along altitudinal traverses in mountain ranges throughout the world (Poage and Chamberlain, 2001). The relationship between net elevation change and Delta delta^18O allows us to constrain net elevation changes of mountain ranges. We applied this technique to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the Sierra Nevada of California, the Rocky Mountains and the Himalayan/Tibetan mountain ranges (Chamberlain et al., 1999; Chamberlain and Poage, 2000; Poage and Chamberlain, 2002). Our results show that the Southern Alps were formed in the last 5 Ma, a time when the plate-motion vectors along the Alpine fault changed from dominantly strike-slip to oblique convergence. In contrast, our studies of the Sierra Nevada suggest that this mountain range has been a long-standing tectonic feature for the last 16 Ma, and may have decreased in elevation (Poage and Chamberlain, 2002). And, studies of weathered ashes from the Rocky Mountains indicate similar topographic gradients since the Eocene. The isotopic data from the Himalaya show a marked change in the last 7 Ma. Along the front of the Himalaya in Pakistan delta^18O of smectite and calcite increases at 7 Ma, whereas behind Tibet delta^18O of calcite decreases in the last 7 Ma. We tentatively suggest that these trends are a result of uplift of Tibet and isolation of the Asian and Indian air masses.

    Chamberlain, C.P., Poage, M.A., Craw, D., and Reynolds, R.C., 1999, Topographic development of the Southern Alps recorded by the isotopic composition of authigenic clay minerals. Chemical Geology, 155, 279-294.

    Chamberlain, C.P., and Poage, M.A., 2000, reconstructing the paleotopography of mountain belts from the isotopic composition of authigenic minerals. Geology, 28, 115-118.

    Poage, M.A., and Chamberlain, C.P., 2001, Empirical relationships between elevation and the stable isotope composition of precipitation and surface waters: considerations for studies of paleoelevation change. American Journal of Science, 301, 1-15.

    Poage, M.A., and Chamberlain, C.P., 2002, Stable isotopic evidence for a Pre-Middle Miocene rainshadow in the western Great Basin and Range: implications for the surface uplift of the Sierra Nevada. Tectonics v. 21, 16-1 to 16-10.

    About the Speaker

    Page Chamberlain is Professor/Co-director Stanford/USGS SHRIMP RG ion microprobe facility. Professor Chamberlain's research expertise is in the broad area of isotope geochemistry. His current research projects involve the use of isotopes as tracers to investigate geochemical processes in the earth interior and surface, climate change, and environmental problems. His research combine both field and laboratory components. The laboratories include a laser-based light stable isotope laboratory and the SHRIMP RG ion microprobe. Field locations include the Appalachians of New England, the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, the Himalaya, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and the Sierra Nevada of California.

    photo of Page

    Reservations: The preferred way to make reservations is simply to email Janice Sellers at by Friday, February 7, tell her you will attend, commit to pay, and bring your payment to the meeting. Janice always emails a confirmation; if you don't get one, assume email crashed yet again and email her a second time. A check made to"PGS"is preferred, payable at the meeting.

    If you want to pay in advance:

    Stanford faculty and students: Please make dinner reservations by Friday, February 7. Contact Dr. Juhn Liou via his mailbox (and leave check), Geological and Environmental Sciences Office, Geocorner - Bldg. 320 (Rm. 118). Make checks out to"PGS."

    All others, including faculty and students from other Bay Area universities and colleges and USGS: Please make dinner reservations by Friday, February 7. Contact Janice Sellers, at Seismological Society of America, 201 Plaza Professional Building, El Cerrito, CA 94530, phone (510) 559-1780. Send check made out to"PGS"to Janice.

    Dinner is $30.00. Includes wine (5:30 to 6:15 PM.), dinner (6:15-7:30 PM.), tax, and tip.

    For students from all universities and colleges, the dinner, including the social half-hour, is $5.00 and is partially subsidized thanks to the School of Earth Sciences, Stanford University (Note, no-show reservations owe the full price).

    Dues for Academic Year 2002-2003 ($10.00) should be sent to Janice Sellers, Seismological Society of America, 201 Plaza Professional Building, El Cerrito, CA 94530. Janice's phone: (510) 559-1780.

    Officers: Bob Christiansen, President; Mike Diggles, Vice President; Vicki Langenheim, Secretary; Janice Sellers, Treasurer; Adina Paytan, Field-Trip Czarina

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    Date created: 01/16/2003
    Last modified: 03/27/2003
    Created by: Mike Diggles, Vice President, PGS.
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