Anisotropy of the Indian continental lithospheric mantle

Heintz, Maggy ; Pavan Kumar, V. ; Gaur, Vinod K. ; Priestley, Keith ; Rai, Shyam S. ; Surya Prakasam, K. (2009) Anisotropy of the Indian continental lithospheric mantle Geophysical Journal International, 179 (3). pp. 1341-1360. ISSN 0956-540X

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Due to the paucity of seismological data available in the public domain, the structure of the Indian lithosphere is still little known. We investigate the lithospheric structure and potential mechanical coupling between the crust and upper mantle along the Himalayan arc and underneath peninsular India using seismic anisotropy. Shear wave splitting measurements are performed on core-refracted phases. For each event recorded at a given seismological station we measured the orientation of the polarization plane of the fast S wave (phi), assumed to be a proxy for the orientation of the a axis of olivine, and the delay (dt) between the arrival time of the fast and slow S waves. We present a very comprehensive data set recorded at 86 seismological stations, deployed from the Himalayas to the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, in a joint effort by the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, India, the University of Cambridge and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. The unprecedented data set we present sheds light on the mechanisms involved in the India-Eurasia continental collision in a region along the Himalayan arc, south of the Indus-Tsangpo suture zone. At the scale of the Indian plate, the majority of the stations show a NNE-SSW orientation of phi over hundreds of kilometres, from Sri Lanka to the northern part of the Dharwar craton. This direction closely parallels the trend of the Indian plate motion, with respect to a fixed Eurasian plate, as defined through the NUVEL1A plate model. Along the Himalayan arc, from Ladakh in the northwest, to Bhutan and the Shillong plateau in the east, the orientation of phi rotates to become ~EW, perpendicular to the plate motion as defined through NUVEL1A. Unlike previous studies, we do find strong evidence for seismic anisotropy south of the Indus Tsangpo suture zone. A large number of null results have been computed, with consistent orientation of the two fast polarization directions (phi) across the subcontinent. We demonstrate the potential value of the too often neglected null measurements in the interpretation of seismic anisotropy. From these results, we infer the dominance, beneath the Indian lithosphere, of the asthenospheric flow in aligning minerals in the sheared lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary layer, masking any compression induced anisotropy expected to be normal to this direction. Closer to the collision front in northern India, the anisotropy may in part, be due to the foliation planes of the Himalayan fold and thrust belt aligning the a axis of olivine perpendicular to the compression axis, but more likely to the turning of the relative asthenospheric flow along the strike caused by the downthrusting Indian lithosphere acting as a barrier. The continent-wide consistency of results strengthens the understanding that the Indian lithosphere has distinct anisotropic signatures, contrary to the hitherto assumed isotropy and allows one to interpret the results in a coherent framework of Indo-Eurasian convergence.

Item Type:Article
Source:Copyright of this article belongs to Royal Astronomical Society.
Keywords:Plate Motions; Body Waves; Seismic Anisotropy; Continental Tectonics: Compressional; Asia
ID Code:21785
Deposited On:22 Nov 2010 10:32
Last Modified:31 May 2011 08:34

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