P-wave tomography and dynamics of the crust and upper mantle beneath western Tibet

Junmeng Zhao, Dapeng Zhao, Heng Zhang, Hongbing Liu, Ying Huang, Honggang Cheng, Wei Wang

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42 Citations (Scopus)


The continental collision between the Indian and Asian plates plays a key role in the geologic and tectonic evolution of the Tibetan plateau. In this article we present high-resolution tomographic images of the crust and upper mantle derived from a large number of high-quality seismic data from the ANTILOPE project in western Tibet. Both local and distant earthquakes were used in this study and 35,115 P-wave arrival times were manually picked from the original seismograms. Geological and geochemical results suggested that the subducting Indian plate has reached northward to the Lhasa terrane, whereas our new tomography shows that the Indian plate is currently sub-horizontal and underthrusting to the Jinsha river suture at depths of ~. 100 to ~. 250. km, suggesting that the subduction process has evolved over time. The Asian plate is also imaged clearly from the surface to a depth of ~. 100. km by our tomography, and it is located under the Tarim Basin north of the Altyn Tagh Fault. There is no obvious evidence to show that the Asian plate has subducted beneath western Tibet. The Indian and Asian plates are separated by a prominent low-velocity zone under northern Tibet. We attribute the low-velocity zone to mantle upwelling, which may account for the warm crust and upper mantle beneath that region, and thus explain the different features of magmatism between southern and northern Tibet. But the upwelling may not penetrate through the whole crust. We propose a revised geodynamic model and suggest that the high-velocity zones under Lhasa terrane may reflect a cold crust which has interrupted the crustal flow under the westernmost Tibetan plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1690-1699
Number of pages10
JournalGondwana Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 May


  • India-Asia collision
  • Mantle dynamics
  • Seismic tomography
  • Subduction processes
  • Tibetan plateau


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