Evaluating the evolution of the Red River system based on in-situ U-Pb dating and Hf isotope analysis of zircons

Long Van Hoang, Fuyuan Wu, Peter D Clift, Anna Wysocka, Anna Swierczewska

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147 Citations (Scopus)


The Red River originates from SW China and SE Tibet and has a total length >1000 km. In this study, we present new U-Pb dating and Hf isotopic analysis of zircon grains, from both modern and paleoriver sands in order to constrain the provenance of the modern river and to decipher drainage evolution through time. Our data show that the Yangtze and Songpan Garze blocks are the most important sources for sediment, although this material is mostly reworked via younger sedimentary rocks in the upper reaches of the Red River. Sands in the Da River and to a lesser extent the Lo River have zircon ages indicating that they are minor contributors to the net flow, consistent with rock uplift, which is strongest in the upper reaches of the Red River, rather than precipitation being the primary control on erosion. Sediments eroded from the metamorphic rocks along the Red River Fault Zone appear to have made a greater contribution during the Miocene. Zircon ages suggest that the Red River flowed north of the Day Nui Con Voi in the Middle-Late Miocene. The Red River appears to have had a largely stable provenance since at least the Late Miocene. Upper Miocene sedimentary rocks NE of the Red River indicate the presence of a separate, large river in the Late Miocene. Hf isotope data indicate that the Irrawaddy River was never part of the Red River system. Although we do not exclude the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers from having been part of the Red River, any connection must have been pre-Middle Miocene.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ11008
Number of pages20
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2009


  • zircon dating
  • Hf isotopes
  • red river
  • erosion
  • provenance


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