A Paleoseismic Record Spanning 2-Myr Reveals Episodic Late Pliocene Deformation in the Western Qaidam Basin, NE Tibet

Yin Lu* (Corresponding Author), Shmuel Marco, Nadav Wetzler, Xiaomin Fang, G. Ian Alsop, Aurélia Hubert-Ferrari

*Corresponding author for this work

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The western Qaidam Basin, NE Tibet contains numerous NW-SE-trending thrusts that extend over a distance of ?300 km along the Altyn Tagh Fault and north of the Kunlun Range. However, little is known about the long-term seismo-tectonic evolution of this active thrust zone due to the absence of an extended paleoseismic record. We present a 2-Myr-long disturbance record established from a core drilled on the crest of a thrust-cored anticline. Based on detailed sedimentological analysis, the disturbances (micro-faults, soft-sediment deformation, slumps, and detachment surfaces) are interpreted as paleoearthquake/tectonic indicators. The core records five seismite clusters which occurred at 3.6-3.5, 3.4-3.2, 3.15-3.1, 3.0-2.9, and 2.8-2.75 Ma. This suggests the rate of tectonic strain accommodated by the folds and thrusts in the region varies and thus reveals episodic local deformation. During the clusters, regional deformation is concentrated more in the fold-and-thrust system than along regional major strike-slip faults.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GL090530
Number of pages12
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number5
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was inspired by Prof. Lin Ding's comments on the doctoral thesis proposal of Yin Lu in May 2014 at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, China. We thank Profs. Todd Ehlers, Erwin Appel, and Oliver Friedrich for fruitful discussions in the early stage of this research. We appreciate the editor Germán Prieto for handling our manuscript, Jérôme Nomade and one anonymous reviewer for constructive reviews. We thank Werner Fielitz for comments, A. Koutsodendris, K. S. Nakajima, and H. Campos for help with lab work, and W. Rösler and H. Schulz for help with core sampling. Financial support was provided by the German Research Foundation (# FR2544/13-1 to O. Friedrich) and the University of Liege under Special Funds for Research, IPD-STEMA Program (R.DIVE.0899-JF-G to Y. Lu).


  • paleoseismology
  • regional deformation
  • seismites
  • seismo-tectonic evolution
  • slump
  • soft-sediment deformation
  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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