The biggest crash on Earth: India slides under Tibet, but how?

Sep 16, 2010

During the collision of India with the Eurasian continent, the Indian plate is pushed about 500 kilometers under Tibet, reaching a depth of 250 kilometers. The result of this largest collision in the world is the world's highest mountain range, but the tsunami in the Indian Ocean from 2004 was also created by earthquakes generated by this collision.

The clash of the two is very complex, the Indian plate, for example, is compressed where it collides with the very rigid plate of the Tarim Basin at the north-western edge of Tibet. On the eastern edge of Tibet, the Wenchuan in May 2008 claimed over 70,000 deaths. Scientists at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences report in the latest issue of the scientific journal "Science" (vol. 329, Sept. 17, 2010) on the results of a new seismic method which was used to investigate the collision process.

In international cooperation, it was possible to follow the route of the approximately 100 kilometers thick Indian continental plate beneath Tibet. To achieve this, a series of large seismic experiments were carried out in Tibet, during which the naturally occuring earthquakes were recorded. By evaluating weak waves that were scattered at the lower edge of the continental plate, this edge was made visible in detail. The boundary between the rigid and the softer asthenosphere proved to be much more pronounced than was previously believed.

The entire Indian sub-continent moves continuously north over millions of years and has moved 2 meters below Tibet in the last 50 years alone. The Himalayas and the highlands of Tibet, the highest and largest plateau in the world, were formed this way. But the recurring catastrophic earthquakes in China are also caused by this collision of two continents. For a better understanding of the processes involved in the collision of the two plates, it is hoped to ultimately reduce the earthquake risk to millions of people across the entire zone.

Explore further: NASA satellites calling here you come again, Tropical Storm Dolly

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the mystery of the Tibetan Plateau

Nov 03, 2005

A University of Alberta physicist who helped solve the age-old mystery of what keeps afloat the highest plateau on earth has added more pieces to the Tibetan puzzle. Dr. Martyn Unsworth has uncovered new research about the ...

Geophysicists image rock layers under Himalaya

Jun 29, 2005

New technique developed to visualize colliding rock bodies A team of geophysicists at the University of Colorado at Boulder has developed a new technique to visualize the colliding rock bodies beneath the Himalaya with unp ...

Long Wait Before Next China Quake?

Jul 10, 2008

A new analysis of the setting for May's devastating earthquake in China shows that the quake resulted from faults with little seismic activity--and that similar events in that area occur, on average, only ...

Recommended for you

Tropical Storm Dolly forms, threatens Mexico

6 hours ago

Tropical Storm Dolly formed off Mexico's northeastern coast on Tuesday and headed toward landfall in Tamaulipas state, threatening to spark floods and mudslides, forecasters said.

Giant garbage patches help redefine ocean boundaries

9 hours ago

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of environmental concern between Hawaii and California where the ocean surface is marred by scattered pieces of plastic, which outweigh plankton in that part of ...

New satellite maps out Napa Valley earthquake

10 hours ago

Scientists have used a new Earth-observation satellite called Sentinel-1A to map the ground movements caused by the earthquake that shook up California's wine-producing Napa Valley on 24 August 2014.

User comments : 0