Active shortening within the Himalayan orogenic wedge implied by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake

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Abstract

Models of Himalayan neotectonics generally attribute active mountain building to slip on the Himalayan Sole Thrust, also termed the Main Himalayan Thrust, which accommodates underthrusting of the Indian Plate beneath Tibet. However, the geometry of the Himalayan Sole Thrust and thus how slip along it causes uplift of the High Himalaya are unclear. We show that the geodetic record of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake sequence significantly clarifies the architecture of the Himalayan Sole Thrust and suggests the need for revision of the canonical view of how the Himalaya grow. Inversion of Gorkha surface deformation reveals that the Himalayan Sole Thrust extends as a planar gently dipping fault surface at least 20-30 km north of the topographic front of the High Himalaya. This geometry implies that building of the high range cannot be attributed solely to slip along the Himalayan Sole Thrust over a steep ramp; instead, shortening within the Himalayan wedge is required to support the topography and maintain rapid rock uplift. Indeed, the earthquake sequence may have included a moderate rupture (Mw 6.9) on an out-of-sequence thrust fault at the foot of the High Himalaya. Such internal deformation is an expected response to sustained, focused rapid erosion, and may be common to most compressional orogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-716
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume9
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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