Abstract

Remarkable V‐shaped conjugate strike‐slip faults extend along the Bangong–Nujiang suture in central Tibet. Motions of these faults are considered to accommodate ongoing east–west extension and north–south contraction. Fabrics within the fault zone that are anisotropic to seismic waves can provide clues as to the unusual scale and style of lithospheric deformation. With the goal of determining the upper‐crustal anisotropy pattern in central Tibet, we measured shear‐wave splitting parameters (fast wave polarization direction and delay time) using waveforms generated by 194 local earthquakes recorded by 49 stations of the SANDWICH network. Stations located in eastern and western zones of the study area show anisotropy directions that agree well with the maximum horizontal compressive stress direction. The fast polarization directions at stations near active strike‐slip faults generally run parallel to the strikes of these faults. Pervasive inactive thrust faults caused by Cretaceous–Tertiary shortening in central Tibet also clearly correlate with the anisotropy detected at nearby stations. These results demonstrate that both local structures and stress contribute to upper‐crustal anisotropy in the region. Combining the new results with previous SKS‐wave splitting results and other seismic evidence, we propose that deformation in the upper crust is mechanically decoupled from that in the upper mantle, due to eastward middle‐lower crustal flow. This crustal flow causes basal shearing required for the formation of conjugate strike‐slip faults in central Tibet.

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