EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Megathrust shear force limits mountain height at convergent plate margins

Armin Dielforder
Armin Dielforder
  • Leibniz Universität Hannover, Institut für Geologie, Hannover, Germany (

The shear force along convergent plate boundary faults, called megathrusts, determines the height of mountain ranges that can be mechanically sustained. However, whether the true height of mountain ranges corresponds to this tectonically supported elevation is debated. In particular, climate-dependent erosional processes are often assumed to exert a first-order control on mountain height, although this assumption has remained difficult to validate. To address this issue, I first constrained the shear force along active megathrusts from their rheological properties and then determined the tectonically supported elevation using a force balance model. This analysis revealed that the height of mountain ranges around the globe matches the tectonically supported elevation, irrespective of climatic conditions and the rate of erosion. This finding indicates that the height of mountain ranges is effectively limited by the megathrust shear force and implies that global differences in mountain height are at first-order tectonically controlled. Thus, temporal variations in mountain height should reflect long-term changes in the force balance rather than changes in climate.

How to cite: Dielforder, A.: Megathrust shear force limits mountain height at convergent plate margins, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-233,, 2020.

Corresponding presentation materials formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.