Seismic investigation of the Kunlun Fault: Analysis of the INDEPTH IV 2-D active-source seismic dataset

William George Seelig, University of Texas at El Paso


The Tibetan Plateau has experienced significant crustal thickening and deformation since the continental subduction and collision of the Asian and Indian plates in the Eocene. Deformation of the northern Tibetan Plateau is largely accommodated by strike-slip faulting. The Kunlun Fault is a 1000-km long strike-slip fault near the northern boundary of the Plateau that has experienced five magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquakes in the past 100 years and represents a major rheological boundary. Active-source, 2-D seismic reflection/refraction data, collected as part of project INDEPTH IV (International Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya, phase IV) in 2007, was used to examine the structure and the dip of the Kunlun fault. The INDEPTH IV data was acquired to better understand the tectonic evolution of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, such as the far-field deformation associated with the continent-continent collision and the potential subduction of the Asian continent beneath northern Tibet. Seismic reflection common depth point (CDP) stacks were examined to look for reflectivity patterns that may be associated with faulting. A possible reflection from the buried North Kunlun Thrust (NKT) is identified at 18-21 km underneath the East Kunlun Mountains, with an estimated apparent dip of 15°S and thrusting to the north. Minimally-processed shot gathers were also inspected for reflections off near-vertical structures such as faults and information on first-order velocity structure. Shot offset and nearest receiver number to reflection was catalogued to increase confidence of picks. Reflections off the North Kunlun (NKF) and South Kunlun Faults (SKF) were identified and analyzed for apparent dip and subsurface geometry. Fault reflection analysis found that the North Kunlun Fault had an apparent dip of approximately 68ºS to an estimated depth of 5 km, while the South Kunlun Fault dipped at approximately 78ºN to an estimated 3.5 km depth. Constraints on apparent dip and geometry of the NKF/SKF and NKT provide information valuable for seismic hazard analysis. ^

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Seelig, William George, "Seismic investigation of the Kunlun Fault: Analysis of the INDEPTH IV 2-D active-source seismic dataset" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10285049.