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Dissertation zugänglich unter
URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:18-22837
URL: http://ediss.sub.uni-hamburg.de/volltexte/2004/2283/


Lithospheric deformations in Central Asia, derived from gravity data

Jiang, Xiaodian

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Basisklassifikation: 38.36 , 38.55
Institut: Geowissenschaften
DDC-Sachgruppe: Geowissenschaften
Dokumentart: Dissertation
Hauptberichter: Wong, How Kin (Prof. Dr.)
Sprache: Englisch
Tag der mündlichen Prüfung: 15.12.2004
Erstellungsjahr: 2004
Publikationsdatum: 28.12.2004
Kurzfassung auf Englisch: Central Asia is characterized by a number of spectacular tectonic units such as the Tibetan Plateau, the Tien Shan intra-continental mountain belt and the Altyn Tagh strike-slip fault. Deformation of the lithosphere of these units is not well understood. In this dissertation, an attempt is made to answer the following tectonic questions: To what extent do the tectonic units formed in the upper crust in the course of the convergence between India and Eurasia weaken the underlying lithosphere? How is the Tibetan Plateau gravita-tionally compensated along its northern boundary? Do the Altyn Tagh and/or West Kunlun faults persist as vertical strike-slips throughout the crust and mantle lithosphere, thus representing a fundamental plate boundary? Which dynamic processes in the crust and mantle of the Tien Shan are responsible for intra-continental mountain building? What characterizes the local stress field in the Tien Shan and what causes the deformation of these mountains?
To answer these questions, the elastic plate theory is used to interpret gravity and topography data, and in turn to derive specific characteristics of the lithospheric structure in Central Asia. Theoretical deflection of the elastic plate or plates were calculated using the 3D and 2D finite-difference methods. Variable-rigidity elastic plates are subjected to vertical and horizontal loads, shear forces, and terminal bending moments. Surface topo-graphic data from the Topo30 dataset is used as vertical surface loading to calculate the flexure of the elastic lithosphere. Most of the gravity data used were digitized from the 1:4,000,000 map “Regional Bouguer Gravity of China”. The resulting dataset is supplemented by 468 new gravity stations surveyed in 1997 and 1998 across the northern edge of Tibet.
Our results show that the mechanical strength of the lithosphere in Central Asia varies significantly from a small elastic thickness of less than 15 km to a moderate thickness of 40-50 km. Weak zones exist in the major mountain building areas such as the Tien Shan, Altyn Shan, West Kunlun Shan, Qilian Shan and the Indus-Zhangbo suture zone. Stronger zones are located in the less deformed basinal areas such as the Tarim, Qaidam and Sichuan basins as well as in certain topographically low areas (< 2500 m). Of particular interest is the central and eastern Tibetan plateau. Here, the elastic strength is high, namely close to that of the lowlands. Even the steep transition from the eastern high plateau to its adjacent lowland (Sichuan Basin) does not significantly weaken the lithosphere underneath.
1
A number of plausible models of crustal structure were constructed in an effort to reproduce the main features of the Bouguer gravity and topographic data by integrating information on the sedimentary column derived from exploration seismology in the Tarim and Qaidam basins. Based on the gravity fit, it was found that elastic strength across the Altyn Tagh Fault is zero, allowing for the possibility that this fault cuts through the entire lithosphere and has a negligible thrust component currently or in the past. This result is consistent with tectonic models that assume the creation of a thickened crust in northern Tibet through thick-skinned thrust sheets progressively overriding Asia to the northeast as the Altyn Tagh, behaving as a classical transform fault, propagates in that direction. Farther west, the gravity observations across the West Kunlun Fault are best explained by significant underthrusting of the high topography by an elastic plate with effective thicknesses between 30 and 40 km, in agreement with geological interpretations and modelling of earlier, but very sparse gravity observations.
Sediment corrections in the Zungar and Tarim basins north and south of the Tien Shan respectively as well as 2D modelling along four profiles were carried out. A number of plausible models of lithospheric structure were also tested in order to reproduce the main features of the Bouguer gravity and topography in the space domain. Our results indicate that the lithospheric elastic strength across the western Tien Shan is zero, suggesting that the Southern Tien Shan Thrust Fault cuts through the entire lithosphere. In contrast, the gravity data are best fitted by an underthrusting elastic plate with an effective thickness of 40-45 km in the Tarim and Zungar basins, decreasing to 20-25 km beneath the Tien Shan. Deforma-tions of the Tien Shan are dominated by underthrusting of a rigid plate beneath the mountain range.
We examined the local stress field in the Tien Shan and analysed how the older orogenic event is related to the reactivation of the Tien Shan under the present tectonic regime. We calculated the sum of the stress fields from (1) interaction between the Indian and Eurasian plates, (2) the elevated gravitational potential energy, and (3) bending of the lithosphere in the Tien Shan area. This composite stress field is consistent with the stress derived from seismic focal solutions, GPS measurements and surface geology. Our results show that the flexural stress field resulting from bending of the lithosphere beneath the Tien Shan contributes the most to the total stress field. Furthermore, they suggest that the Tien Shan uplifted in response to a local intra-continental stress field rather than to the regional stress caused by the collision between India and Eurasia.

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