Plate motion of India and interseismic strain in the Nepal himalaya from GPS and DORIS measurements

Pierre Bettinelli, Jean Philippe Avouac, Mireille Flouzat, François Jouanne, Laurent Bollinger, Pascal Willis, Gyani Raja Chitrakar

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We analyse geodetically estimated deformation across the Nepal Himalaya in order to determine the geodetic rate of shortening between Southern Tibet and India, previously proposed to range from 12 to 21 mm yr-1. The dataset includes spirit-levelling data along a road going from the Indian to the Tibetan border across Central Nepal, data from the DORIS station on Everest, which has been analysed since 1993, GPS campaign measurements from surveys carried on between 1995 and 2001, as well as data from continuous GPS stations along a transect at the logitude of Kathmandu operated continuously since 1997. The GPS data were processed in International Terrestrial Reference Frame 2000 (ITRF2000), together with the data from 20 International GNSS Service (IGS) stations and then combined using quasi-observation combination analysis (QOCA). Finally, spatially complementary velocities at stations in Southern Tibet, initially determined in ITRF97, were expressed in ITRF2000. After analysing previous studies by different authors, we determined the pole of rotation of the Indian tectonic plate to be located in ITRF2000 at 51.409±1.560° N and -10.915± 556°E, with an angular velocity of 0.483±0.015°. Myr-1. Internal deformation of India is found to be small, corresponding to less than about 2 mm yr-1 of baseline change between Southern India and the Himalayan piedmont. Based on an elastic dislocation model of interseismic strain and taking into account the uncertainty on India plate motion, the mean convergence rate across Central and Eastern Nepal is estimated to 19±2.5 mm yr-1, (at the 67% confidence level). The main himalayan thrust (MHT) fault was found to be locked from the surface to a depth of about 20 km over a width of about 115 km. In these regions, the model parameters are well constrained, thanks to the long and continuous time-series from the permanent GPS as well as DORIS data. Further west, a convergence rate of 13.4±5 mm yr-1, as well as a fault zone, locked over 150 km, are proposed. The slight discrepancy between the geologically estimated deformation rate of 21v±1.5 mm yr-1 and the 19±2.5 mm yr-1 geodetic rate in Central and Eastern Nepal, as well as the lower geodetic rate in Western Nepal compared to Eastern Nepal, places bounds on possible temporal variations of the pattern and rate of strain in the period between large earthquakes in this region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-589
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number8-11
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Nov 2006


  • GPS
  • Himalayas of Nepal
  • Interseismic deformation
  • Tectonic plate convergence


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