Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Kip V Hodges1, Kelin X Whipple1, Eric Kirby2, Ramon Arrowsmith1 and Manoochehr Shirzaei1, (1)Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States, (2)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Continental plateaus are reservoirs of excess gravitational energy that can influence the late-stage geodynamic evolution of adjacent orogenic wedges. In the central Himalaya (80-88˚E), most late Cenozoic deformation has involved roughly N-S shortening within the Himalayan orogenic wedge. Within this region, all 1976-2014 Mw 5 and larger earthquakes had thrust mechanisms associated with slip along major arc-parallel structures within or at the base of the orogenic wedge. In contrast, the segment of the wedge between 88˚E and 91˚E – including easternmost Nepal, the Sikkim region of India, and Bhutan – is characterized by a complex deformation field that includes thrusting on arc-parallel wedge structures but also transcurrent faulting at high angles to the Himalayan arc. In fact, over the same 1976-2014 period, all but one of the Mw 5 and larger earthquakes in this region had transcurrent fault mechanisms, mostly consistent with dextral strike-slip along NW-striking faults. We refer to this region as the central-eastern Himalayan transition zone. Although direct field evidence of the surface breaks of these faults has not been established, the orientations of nodal planes of large earthquakes, as well as alignments of microearthquake arrays, suggest that they may connect northward to a discontinuous family of arc-parallel faults – most showing evidence for oblique slip, with variable normal and dextral-transcurrent components – which we interpret as the long-term structural manifestation of the boundary between the distinctive modern strain fields of Tibet (E-W extension) and the central Himalaya (N-S shortening). In addition, transverse faults of the central-eastern Himalayan transition zone may project southward, beneath sediments near the Ganges and Bhramaputra confluence, as dextral tear faults linking the active thrust front of the central Himalaya to the active thrust front of the Shillong Plateau in northeastern India. We hypothesize that the broadening of the zone of Neogene-Quaternary convergent deformation by a factor of two or more between the central Himalaya and eastern Himalaya-Shillong region is a signature of southeastward flow of Tibet driven by local gravitaitonal potential energy gradients, substantially modifying the character of the Himalayan orogenic wedge.