Imaging the Indian subcontinent beneath the Himalaya

Nature. 2005 Jun 30;435(7046):1222-5. doi: 10.1038/nature03678.


The rocks of the Indian subcontinent are last seen south of the Ganges before they plunge beneath the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau. They are next glimpsed in seismic reflection profiles deep beneath southern Tibet, yet the surface seen there has been modified by processes within the Himalaya that have consumed parts of the upper Indian crust and converted them into Himalayan rocks. The geometry of the partly dismantled Indian plate as it passes through the Himalayan process zone has hitherto eluded imaging. Here we report seismic images both of the decollement at the base of the Himalaya and of the Moho (the boundary between crust and mantle) at the base of the Indian crust. A significant finding is that strong seismic anisotropy develops above the decollement in response to shear processes that are taken up as slip in great earthquakes at shallower depths. North of the Himalaya, the lower Indian crust is characterized by a high-velocity region consistent with the formation of eclogite, a high-density material whose presence affects the dynamics of the Tibetan plateau.