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German Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya I

Records of densely spaced shots along the Sino-US reflection line INDEPTH II at offsets between 70 and 130 km parallel to the main profile provide an image of the crust straddling the Indus-Yarlung suture. The major features are prominent reflections at about 20 km depth beneath and extending out to about 20-30 km north and south of the surface exposure of the suture, and north-dipping reflectors north of the suture. Various interpretations for the reflections are possible. i) They represent a decollement, possibly of the Gangdise thrust system. In this scenario, the surface expression of the Gangdise thrust as mapped in eastern south Tibet is a splay with the decollement continuing southwards and either ending as a blind thrust or ramping up as one of the thrusts within the northernmost Tethyan shelf sequence. ii) The reflections represent fabrics within gneisses, partly obliterated by intrusions reaching various levels of the crust. The reflection bands may be interpreted in terms of deformation or sedimentary structures belonging to the Indian crust, the accretionary complex, and the basement of the Gangdise belt. The intrusions could be related to the Tethyan leucogranites south of the suture (e.g. Rinbung leucogranite), and to the Gangdise magmatic arc to the north of the suture. iii) The reflections represent a fortuitous coincidence of different features north and south of the suture. South of the suture, the reflections may record the basement-cover interface of the Indian crust or a thrust system in the Tethyan shelf. North of the suture, they may comprise different levels within the Gangdise belt and its basement. Although it is not possible to discriminate between the suggested scenarios without additional information, the seismic mapping points to the importance of post-collisional (Oligocene-Miocene) tectonics, which reshaped the suture.

Time Frame

  • Wide-angle experiment - June - August 1994

Principal Investigators

  • Prof. Dr. F. Wenzel (GFZ Potsdam, now Uni. Karlsruhe)
  • Prof. Dr. R. Meissner (Uni. Kiel)
  • Prof. Dr. W. Frisch (Uni. Tuebingen)
  • Prof. Dr. R. Kind (GFZ Potsdam)
  • Dr. J. Mechie (GFZ Potsdam)


  • Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Ministry of Land and Resources, Beijing, China
  • Kiel University, Tuebingen University Stanford University, Syracuse University, Cornell University, New Mexico State University

Methods & Equipment

  • wide-angle reflection/refraction - 30 Refteks from GIPP


  • Mechie, J., Wenzel, F., Meissner, R., Steentoft, H., Husen, S., Brauner, H.-J., Zhao, W., Guo, J., Jiang, D., Frisch, W., Hauff, S.-F. and Ratschbacher, L., 1996. The Indus-Yarlung Suture, Southern Tibet - A crustal section based on wide-angle seismic measurements. Geowissenschaften, 14. Jahrgang: 317-319.
  • Zhao, W., Mechie, J., Guo, J., Wenzel, F., Meissner, R., Ratschbacher, L., Steentoft, H., Husen, S., Brauner, H.-J., Jiang, D., Frisch, W. and Hauff, S.-F., 1997. Seismic mapping of crustal structures beneath the Indus-Yarlung Suture, Tibet. Terra Nova, 9: 42-46.
  • Nelson, K.D., Zhao, W., Brown, L.D., Kuo, J., Che, J., Liu, X., Klemperer, S.L., Makovsky, Y., Meissner, R., Mechie, J., Kind, R., Wenzel, F., Ni, J., Nabelek, J., Leshou, C., Tan, H., Wei, W., Jones, A.G., Booker, J., Unsworth, M., Kidd, W.S.F., Hauck, M., Alsdorf, D., Ross, A., Cogan, M., Wu, C., Sandvol, E. and Edwards, M., 1996. Partially molten middle crust beneath southern Tibet: Synthesis of project INDEPTH results. Science, 274: 1684-1688.
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