Seismic anisotropy beneath Tibet: Evidence for eastward extrusion of the Tibetan lithosphere?

J. Lavé, J. P. Avouac, R. Lacassin, P. Tapponnier, J. P. Montagner

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Strong seismic anisotropy beneath Tibet has recently been reported from the study of SKS shear wave splitting. The fast split waves are generally polarized in an easterly direction, close to the present day direction of motion of the Tibetan crust relative to stable Eurasia, as deduced from Holocene slip rates on the major active faults in and around Tibet. This correlation may be taken to suggest that the whole Tibetan lithosphere is being extruded in front of indenting India and that the anisotropic layer is the deforming asthenosphere, that accommodates the motion of the Tibetan lithosphere relative to the fixed mantle at depth. Uncertainties about this motion are at present too large to bring unambiguous support to that view. Assuming that this view is correct however, a simple forward model is used to compute theoretical delay times as a function of the thickness of the anisotropic layer. The observed delay times would require a 50-100 km thick anisotropic layer beneath south-central Tibet and an over 200 km thick layer beneath north-central Tibet, where particularly hot asthenosphere has been inferred. This study suggests that the asthenospheric anisotropy due to present absolute block motion might be dominant under actively deforming continents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-96
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - May 1996


  • Lithosphere
  • Neotectonics
  • SKS-waves
  • Tibet
  • Time variations


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