• Continental tectonics: compressional;
  • Crustal structure;
  • Asia


Utilizing seismic refraction/wide-angle reflection data from 11 approximately in-line earthquakes, 2-D P- and S-velocity models and a Poisson's ratio model of the crust and uppermost mantle beneath the southern Tien Shan and the Pamir have been derived along the 400-km long main profile of the TIPAGE (TIen shan—PAmir GEodynamic program) project. These models show that the crustal thickness varies from about 65.5 km close to the southern end of the profile beneath the South Pamir through about 73.6 km under Lake Karakul in the North Pamir, to about 57.7 km, 50 km south of the northern end of the profile in the southern Tien Shan. Average crustal P velocities are low with respect to the global average, varying from 6.26 to 6.30 km s−1. The average crustal S velocity varies from 3.54 to 3.70 km s−1 along the profile and thus average crustal Poisson's ratio (σ) varies from 0.23 beneath the central Pamir in the south central part of the profile to 0.265 towards the northern end of the profile beneath the southern Tien Shan. The main layer of the upper crust extending from about 2 km below the Earth's surface to 27 km depth below sea level (b.s.l.) has average P velocities of about 6.05–6.1 km s−1, except beneath the south central part of the profile where they decrease to around 5.95 km s−1. This is in contrast to the S velocities which range from 3.4 to 3.6 km s−1 and exhibit the highest values of 3.55–3.6 km s−1 where the P velocity is lowest. Thus, σ for the main layer of the upper crust is 0.26 beneath the profile except beneath the south central part of the profile where it decreases to 0.22. The low value of 0.22 for σ under the central Pamir, the along-strike equivalent of the Qiangtang terrane in Tibet, is similar to that within the corresponding layer beneath the northern Lhasa and southern Qiangtang terranes in central Tibet and is indicative of felsic rocks rich in quartz in the α state. The lower crust below 27 km b.s.l. has P velocities ranging from 6.1 km s−1 at the top to 7.1 km s−1 at the base. Further, σ for this layer is 0.27–0.28 towards the northern end of the profile but is low at about 0.24 beneath the central and southern parts of the profile, which is similar to the situation found in the northeast Tibetan plateau. The low values can be explained by felsic schists and gneisses in the upper part of the lower crust transitioning to granulite-facies and possibly also eclogite-facies metapelites in the lower part. Within the uppermost mantle, the average P velocity is about 8.10–8.15 km s−1 and σ is about 0.26. Assuming an isotropic situation, then a relatively cool (700–800°C) uppermost mantle beneath the profile is indicated. This would in turn indicate an intact mantle lid beneath the profile. An upper mantle reflector dipping from 104 km b.s.l., 120 km from the southern end of the profile to 86 km b.s.l., 155 km from the northern end of the profile has also been identified. The preferred model presented here for the crustal and lithospheric mantle structure beneath the Pamir calls for nearly horizontal underthrusting of relatively cool Indian mantle lithosphere, the leading edge of which is outlined by the Pamir seismic zone. This cool Indian mantle lithosphere is overlain by significantly shortening, warm Asian crust. The Moho trough that is a feature seen beneath some other orogenic belts, for example the Alps and the Urals, beneath the northern Pamir may mark the southern tip of the actively underthrusting Tien Shan crust along the Main Pamir thrust.