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Imaging an intra-continental subduction in Central Asia with teleseismic receiver functions

Schneider, F. M. (2014): Imaging an intra-continental subduction in Central Asia with teleseismic receiver functions, PhD Thesis, (Scientific Technical Report ; 14/06), Potsdam : Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ, 179 p.

(Publisher version), 53MB


Schneider ,  F. M.
2.4 Seismology, 2.0 Physics of the Earth, Departments, GFZ Publication Database, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;
Scientific Technical Report STR, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;

Beneath the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains an earthquake zone is observed in 80 to 300 km depth. It resembles in form and intensity the intermediate depth seismicity in subduction zones, here lithosphere is recycled in the Earth’s mantle. The fundamental tectonic concept of subduction is well established for convergent margins including an oceanic plate. The Pamir, however, is situated in an intra-continental setting and is formed during a continent-continent collision. This thesis aims to contribute to the investigation of the active tectonic process underlying the local occurrence of the seismicity in upper mantle depths. The field experiment for this study was performed in the framework of the multidisciplinary TIPAGE project from 2008 to 2010 and included large parts of the Pamir, the adjacent Tajik Depression and the Southern Tien Shan. The receiver function technique was applied to detect and locate seismic discontinuities in the subsurface in order to perform seismic imaging. The results clearly attest to an intra-continental subduction. Beneath the Pamir, the subducting plate is of Eurasian provenance. A southerly dipping 10 to 15 km thick low velocity zone could be resolved along a north-south profile in the eastern Pamir framing the earthquake zone in the upper mantle. This low velocity zone appears to be connected to the lower crust north of the seismic zone indicating subduction of crustal material in north to south direction. West of this north-south profile the zone of intermediate depth seismicity describes an arc changing its strike from east-west beneath the eastern Pamir to north-south beneath the western Pamir. Thereby the dipping direction of the slab changes from due south to due east. The geometry of this slab is confirmed by various receiver function cross sections. Towards western direction the subducted slab is connected to the crust of the Tajik Depression, indicating that the slab is the western extension of the Tajik Depression plate. Since the crustal thickness of the Tajik Depression is determined to at least 40 km, a continental composition for the crust of the Tajik Depression is inferred even though its underlying mantle lithosphere appears to be thin. The crustal thickness is mapped for the whole region. The resulting Moho map shows a 65 to 75 km thick crust in the Pamir and a 40 to 45 km thick crust in the surrounding basins. The arcuate subduction of the Tajik Depression plate and its eastern extension is reflected by characteristic Moho depth anomalies along the arc.