Present-day crustal motion within the Tibetan Plateau inferred from GPS measurements



[1] Using the measurements of ∼726 GPS stations around the Tibetan Plateau, we determine the rigid rotation of the entire plateau in a Eurasia-fixed reference frame which can be best described by an Euler vector of (24.38° ± 0.42°N, 102.37° ± 0.42°E, 0.7096° ± 0.0206°/Ma). The rigid rotational component accommodates at least 50% of the northeastward thrust from India and dominates the eastward extrusion of the northern plateau. After removing the rigid rotation to highlight the interior deformation within the plateau, we find that the most remarkable interior deformation of the plateau is a “glacier-like flow” zone which starts at somewhere between the middle and western plateau, goes clockwise around the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis (EHS), and ends at the southeast corner of the plateau with a fan-like front. The deformation feature of the southern plateau, especially the emergence of the flow zone could be attributed to an eastward escape of highly plastic upper crustal material driven by a lower crust viscous channel flow generated by lateral compression and gravitational buoyancy at the later developmental stage of the plateau. The first-order feature of crustal deformation of the northeastern plateau can be well explained by a three-dimensional elastic half-space dislocation model with rates of dislocation segments comparable to the ones from geological observations. In the eastern plateau, although GPS data show no significant convergence between the eastern margin of the plateau and the Sichuan Basin, a small but significant compressional strain rate component of ∼10.5 ± 2.8 nstrain/yr exists in a relatively narrow region around the eastern margin. In addition, a large part of the eastern plateau, northeast of the EHS, is not undergoing shortening along the northeastward convergence direction of the EHS but is stretching.