The northeastern boundary of the Tibetan high plateau is marked by a 2 km topographic drop and a coincident rapid change in crustal thickness. Surface tectonics are dominated by the Kunlun strike‐slip fault system and adjacent Kunlun concealed thrust. The main objective of the current study is to map lateral variations of seismic anisotropy parameters in this region along the linear INDEPTH IV array in order to investigate the link between surface and internal deformation in the context of crust and mantle structure. To achieve this aim, we performed Minimum‐Transverse‐Energy based SKS splitting measurements using 23 stations of the INDEPTH IV array deployed across the northeastern margin of Tibet. Average fast polarization directions and splitting time delays are obtained by averaging stacked misfit surfaces of all analyzed events at each station. The agreement of fast directions with the strikes of major active strike‐slip faults and strike‐slip focal mechanisms, but not with fossil structures such as the Jinsha suture, implies that the anisotropy records lithospheric petrofabric formed by recent deformation within the lithosphere rather than representing frozen‐in anisotropy or shear within the asthenosphere due to absolute plate motion. The distribution of large splitting delays throughout the northern plateau suggests that deformation is distributed rather than focused onto narrow shear zones associated with the Kunlun strike‐slip faults. The drop in splitting delays toward the Qaidam is then a natural consequence of the much lower degree of deformation there.

Online Material: Individual splitting results interpreted in this paper.

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