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Seismotectonics of the Pamir



Based on a 2 year seismic record from a local network, we characterize the deformation of the seismogenic crust of the Pamir in the northwestern part of the India-Asia collision zone. We located more than 6000 upper crustal earthquakes in a regional 3-D velocity model. For 132 of these events, we determined source mechanisms, mostly through full waveform moment tensor inversion of locally and regionally recorded seismograms. We also produced a new and comprehensive neotectonic map of the Pamir, which we relate to the seismic deformation. Along Pamir's northern margin, where GPS measurements show significant shortening, we find thrust and dextral strike-slip faulting along west to northwest trending planes, indicating slip partitioning between northward thrusting and westward extrusion. An active, north-northeast trending, sinistral transtensional fault system dissects the Pamir's interior, connecting the lakes Karakul and Sarez, and extends by distributed faulting into the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan. East of this lineament, the Pamir moves northward en bloc, showing little seismicity and internal deformation. The western Pamir exhibits a higher amount of seismic deformation; sinistral strike-slip faulting on northeast trending or conjugate planes and normal faulting indicate east-west extension and north-south shortening. We explain this deformation pattern by the gravitational collapse of the western Pamir Plateau margin and the lateral extrusion of Pamir rocks into the Tajik-Afghan depression, where it causes thin-skinned shortening of basin sediments above an evaporitic décollement. Superposition of Pamir's bulk northward movement and collapse and westward extrusion of its western flank causes the gradual change of surface velocity orientations from north-northwest to due west observed by GPS geodesy. The distributed shear deformation of the western Pamir and the activation of the Sarez-Karakul fault system may ultimately be caused by the northeastward propagation of India's western transform margin into Asia, thereby linking deformation in the Pamir all the way to the Chaman fault in the south in Afghanistan.

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