The crustal structure of the western Himalayas and Tibet

Amy Gilligan* (Corresponding Author), Keith F. Priestley, Steven W. Roecker, Vadim Levin, S. S. Rai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


We present new, high-resolution, shear velocity models for the western Himalayas andWest Tibet from the joint inversion of P receiver functions recorded using seismic stations from four arrays in this region and fundamental mode Rayleigh wave group velocity maps from 5–70 s covering Central and Southern Asia. The Tibetan Plateau is a key locality in understanding large-scale continental dynamics. A large number of investigations has examined the structure and processes in eastern Tibet; however,western Tibet remains relatively understudied. Previous studies in this region indicate that the western part of the Tibetan Plateau is not a simple extension of the eastern part. The areas covered by these arrays include the Karakoram and Altan-Tagh faults, and major terrane boundaries inWest Tibet and the Himalayas. The arrays used include broadband data collected by theWest Tibet Array, a U.S.-China deployment on the western side of the Tibetan Plateau between 2007 and 2011.We use the shear wave velocity models to obtain estimates ofMoho depth. TheMoho is deep (68–84 km) throughoutWest Tibet.We do not observe significant steps within the Moho beneathWest Tibet. A large step in Moho depth is observed at the Altyn-Tagh fault, whereMoho depths are 20–30 kmshallower to the north of the fault compared to those to the south. Beneath the Lhasa Terrane and Tethyan Himalayas, we observe a low-velocity zone in the midcrust. This feature is not interrupted by the Karakoram Fault, suggesting that the Karakoram Fault does not
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3946-3964
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NSF-Geophysics. Grant Numbers: 0440062, 0439976

The collection and archiving of the data used in this study were supported by the IRIS PASSCAL and DMC programs and by NSF‐Geophysics grants 0440062 and 0439976. Data from the Y2 and YT networks were downloaded from IRIS DMC. Amy Gilligan was supported by a NERC studentship, with CASE funding from Weston Geophysical. Figures were prepared using Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) software (Wessel and Smith, 1998). We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments that have helped improve the manuscript.


  • Crustal structure
  • Himalayas
  • Joint inversion
  • Moho depth
  • Receiver functions
  • West Tibet


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