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Building the Himalaya from tectonic to earthquake scales

Dal Zilio, Luca and Hetényi, György and Hubbard, Judith and Bollinger, Laurent (2021) Building the Himalaya from tectonic to earthquake scales. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 2 (4). pp. 251-268. ISSN 2662-138X. doi:10.1038/s43017-021-00143-1.

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Convergence of the Indian Plate towards Eurasia has led to the building of the Himalaya, the highest mountain range on Earth. Active mountain building involves a complex interplay between permanent tectonic processes and transient seismic events, which remain poorly understood. In this Review, we examine the feedbacks between long-term tectonic deformation (over millions of years) and the seismic cycle (years to centuries) in the Himalaya. We discuss how surface morphology of the Himalaya indicates that the convergence is largely accommodated by slip on the Main Himalayan Thrust plate boundary fault, which developed in the roots of the mountain range over millions of years. At shorter (decadal) timescales, tectonic geodesy reveals that elastic strain is periodically released via earthquakes. We use examples from earthquake cycle models to suggest that partial ruptures could primarily occur in the downdip region of the Main Himalayan Thrust. Great (Mw 8+) Himalayan earthquakes are more commonly associated with complete megathrust ruptures, which release accumulated residual strain. By synthesizing numerous observations that co-vary along strike, we highlight that tectonic structures that developed over millions of years can influence stress accumulation, structural segmentation, earthquake rupture extent and location, and, consequently, the growth of the mountain range.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Dal Zilio, Luca0000-0002-5642-0894
Hetényi, György0000-0001-9036-4761
Hubbard, Judith0000-0002-9980-1654
Bollinger, Laurent0000-0002-5116-860X
Additional Information:© 2021 Nature Publishing Group. Accepted 21 January 2021; Published 02 March 2021. L.D.Z. was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) (grants P2EZP2_184307 and P400P2_199295) and the Cecil and Sally Drinkward fellowship at Caltech. G.H. acknowledges the SNSF for funding the OROG3NY project (grants PP00P2_157627 and PP00P2_187199). J.H. is supported by the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), the National Research Foundation Singapore and the Singapore Ministry of Education under the Research Centres of Excellence initiative. L.B. is supported by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). This work comprises EOS contribution 344. We thank R. Jolivet, T. Ragon, T. Gerya, S. Barbot, F. Capitanio, J. Ruh, N. Lapusta, M.-A. Meier, S. Michel and A. Gualandi for constructive comments and discussions. We thank J.-P. Avouac for his help in preparing the manuscript. We are grateful to T. Ragon for providing us with data of the Gorkha event, S. Kufner for sharing a raw figure on the lithospheric structure of the Hindu Kush and to A. Webb for providing us with a geological map of the Himalayan arc. Author Contributions: All authors contributed to the research, writing, figure preparation and editing of this Review. The authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information: Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)P2EZP2_184307
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)P400P2_199295
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PP00P2_157627
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PP00P2_187199
Earth Observatory of SingaporeUNSPECIFIED
National Research Foundation (Singapore)UNSPECIFIED
Ministry of Education (Singapore)UNSPECIFIED
Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Geophysics; Natural hazards; Seismology; Tectonics
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210302-123324968
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Official Citation:Dal Zilio, L., Hetényi, G., Hubbard, J. et al. Building the Himalaya from tectonic to earthquake scales. Nat Rev Earth Environ 2, 251–268 (2021).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108272
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:02 Mar 2021 21:08
Last Modified:09 Apr 2021 21:34

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