Seismic-tomography studies were conducted in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan using two different observation schemes. The first was based on the arrival times of P and S waves from regional earthquakes recorded with local seismological networks (local scheme). Nonlinear tomographic inversion based on the LOTOS algorithm was used to construct the 3D distributions of P and S wave velocities in the crust beneath the Kyrgyz Tien Shan and to refine the earthquake locations. The second scheme was used to study the upper-mantle structure based on data from global earthquake catalogs (regional scheme). All the data on waves which at least partly travel within the volume studied were used here, including (1) those from regional earthquakes recorded at world seismic stations and (2) teleseisms recorded at the local stations. This approach was earlier applied to calculate the upper-mantle structure beneath Asia. We used a fragment of this structure beneath the Tien Shan and adjacent areas. A series of synthetic tests was performed to estimate the resolution provided by both schemes. The tomography shows traces of the delamination of the Tarim mantle lithosphere from south to north. Also, the local and regional schemes reveal evidence for cold-matter descent from north to south in the northern Tien Shan but on a much smaller scale. Low velocities in the upper mantle beneath the Tien Shan might indicate lithospheric thinning. These data suggest that mantle-lithosphere delamination is taking place underneath both the northern and the southern margins of the Tien Shan collision belt. Lack of the mantle lithosphere beneath the Tien Shan leads to lithospheric weakening and active deformation, thus causing intense orogeny.

You do not currently have access to this article.