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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Alexander Densmore

Shi, F., He, H., Densmore, A.L., Li, A., Yang, X. & Xu, X. Active tectonics of the Ganzi-Yushu fault in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Tectonophysics. 2016;676:112-124.

Author(s) from Durham


The ongoing convergence between India and Eurasia apparently is accommodated not merely by crustal shortening in Tibet, instead also by motions along strike slip faults which are usually boundaries between tectonic blocks, especially in the Tibetan Plateau. Quantification of this strike slip faulting is fundamental for understanding the collision between India and Eurasia. Here, we use a variety of geomorphic observations to place constraints on the late Quaternary kinematics and slip rates of the Ganzi–Yushu fault, one of the significant strike-slip faults in eastern Tibet. The Ganzi–Yushu fault is an active, dominantly left-lateral strike-slip structure that can be traced continuously for up to 500 km along the northern boundary of the clockwise-rotating southeastern block of the Tibetan Plateau. We analyse geomorphic evidence for deformation, and calculate the late Quaternary slip rates at four sites along the eastern portion of the fault trace. The latest Quaternary apparent throw rates are variable along strike but are typically ~ 1 mm/a. Rates of strike-slip displacement are likely to be an order of magnitude higher, 8–11 mm/a. Trenching at two locations suggests that the active fault behaviour is dominated by strike-slip faulting and reveals several earthquake events with refined information of timing. The 2010 Mw 6.9 Yushu earthquake, which occurred on the northwestern segment of the Ganzi–Yushu fault zone, provides additional evidence for fault activity. These observations agree with GPS-derived estimates, and show that late Quaternary slip rates on the Ganzi–Yushu fault are comparable to those on other major active strike-slip faults in the eastern Tibetan Plateau.