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Comparisons of the kinematics and deep structures of the Zagros and Himalaya and of the Iranian and Tibetan plateaus and geodynamic implications

Abstract : We compare the geologic histories, the deep structures, and the present-day kinematics of deformation of the Himalaya and the adjacent Tibetan Plateau with those of the Zagros and Iranian Plateau to test geodynamic processes of continental collision. Shortly after India and Arabia collided with Eurasia, horizontal shortening manifested itself by folding and thrust faulting of sedimentary rock detached from India's and Arabia's underlying crystalline basement. Subsequently, slip on thrust faults stacked slices of India's basement to build the Himalaya on India's northern margin. Such faulting has not yet developed in the Zagros, where collision is more recent and Arabia penetrates into Eurasia more slowly than India does, so that postcollision convergence with Eurasia is less. The greater elevation, thicker crust, and more marked heterogeneity of the upper mantle beneath the Tibetan than beneath the Iranian Plateau also reflect a more advanced stage of development. Moreover, while thrust or reverse faulting and crustal shortening continue on the margins of both plateaus, normal faulting, suggesting horizontal extension and crustal thinning, occurs within Tibet but not in Iran. Hence, the balance of forces that built the high Tibetan Plateau must have changed, apparently some time since ∼15 Ma. Removal of Tibetan mantle lithosphere could have altered that balance. If mantle lithosphere beneath the Iranian Plateau has been removed, however, the change in force balance has been too small to initiate normal faulting. Low seismic wave speeds in the uppermost mantle just beneath the Moho of both plateaus suggest (to us) that lithosphere beneath both is thin, consistent with late Cenozoic removal of it, but alternative explanations might account for these low speeds. Despite its apparently thin, and hence presumably weak, mantle lithosphere, much of central Iran undergoes little deformation. It illustrates how a crustal block can behave rigidly not necessarily because it is strong but because deviatoric stresses can be small. Whereas differences between the two regions clearly depend on the amount that Arabia and India have penetrated into Eurasia, which scales with both the dates of collision and rates of convergence, we see no differences in the operative processes that depend on the present-day rates of convergence.
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Submitted on : Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 10:16:15 PM
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Denis Hatzfeld, Peter Molnar. Comparisons of the kinematics and deep structures of the Zagros and Himalaya and of the Iranian and Tibetan plateaus and geodynamic implications. Reviews of Geophysics, American Geophysical Union, 2010, 48, pp.2005. ⟨10.1029/2009RG000304⟩. ⟨insu-00565078⟩

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