We investigate segmentation of High Himalayan strain by cross-orogen structures separating western and eastern obliquely convergent sectors from a central orthogonally convergent sector, and evaluate the relationship between the size of regions accumulating strain, their proximity to the toe of the thrust wedge, and recurrence of Mw >7 earthquakes. We present a map of river channel steepness (ksn)—a proxy for rock-uplift rate over 105 yr, for the Himalayan arc—and evaluate the strength of its correlation with Main Himalayan thrust (MHT) coupling (–0.6), earthquake density (0.6), topography (0.6), lithotectonic units (0.5), and precipitation (–0.3) along 40 profiles spanning the Himalaya from 78°E to 92°E. We interpret the ksn map to be foremost a function of recent strain accumulation. This reveals prominent offsets of hinterland strain accumulation collocated with cross-orogen strike-slip and extensional fault systems. Clusters of high-ksn rivers are located near the boundary between the strongly and weakly coupled portions of the MHT, where fault behavior changes from seismogenic to sliding at the rheologic brittle-to-plastic transition (BPT). We propose that the rate at which major MHT earthquakes repeat is related to four parameters: convergence rate (nearly uniform); spatial dimensions of the high-ksn cluster (proxy for volume of material accumulating strain); the high ksn clusters distance from the toe of thrust wedge (fault surface area over which static friction must be overcome); and the degree of obliquity between India-Asia convergence and the local trend of the orogen (proxy for the magnitude of strain partitioning).
Segmented strain accumulation in the High Himalaya expressed in river channel steepness
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