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Open-File Report 2010‒1083–J, ver. 1.1

Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Himalaya and Vicinity

By Bethan Turner, Jennifer Jenkins, Rebecca Turner, Amy L. Parker, Alison Sinclair, Sian Davies, Gavin P. Hayes, Antonio Villaseñor, Richard L. Dart, Arthur C. Tarr, Kevin P. Furlong, and Harley M. Benz

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (21.4 MB)Abstract

Seismicity in the Himalaya region predominantly results from the collision of the India and Eurasia continental plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40–50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese Arc in the east, and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north of India.

Along the western margin of the India plate, relative motions between India and Eurasia are accommodated by strike-slip, reverse, and oblique-slip faulting resulting in the complex Sulaiman Range fold and thrust belt, and the major translational Chaman Fault in Afghanistan. Beneath the Pamir‒Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur to depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. Further north again, the Tian Shan is a seismically active intra-continental mountain belt defined by a series of east-west trending thrust faults thought to be related to the broad footprint of the India-Eurasia collision.

Tectonics in northern India are dominated by motion along the Main Frontal Thrust and associated thrust faults of the India-Eurasia plate boundary, which have resulted in a series of large and devastating earthquakes in (and prior to) the 20th century. The Tibetan Plateau to the north of the main plate boundary is a broad region of uplift associated with the India-Eurasia collision, and is cut by a series of generally east-west trending strike-slip faults. These include the Kunlun, Haiyuan, and the Altyn Tagh faults, all of which are left-lateral structures, and the Kara-Koram right-lateral fault. Throughout the plateau, thrust faults accommodate the north-south compressional component of crustal shortening associated with the ongoing collision of India and Eurasia, while strike-slip and normal faults accommodate east-west extension.

To the east, The Longmen Shan thrust belt marks the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau separating the complex tectonics of the plateau region from the relatively undeformed Sichuan Basin. Further south, the left-lateral Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiiang, right-lateral Red River and right-lateral Sagaing strike-slip fault systems accommodate deformation along the eastern margin of the India plate. Deep earthquakes have also occurred in the Indo-Burmese Arc region, thought to be an expression of eastward-directed subduction of the India plate, though whether subduction is ongoing is still debated.

First posted March 11, 2013

Revised January 28, 2014

For additional information contact:

Director, Geologic Hazards Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, MS-966
Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046

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Suggested citation:

Turner, Bethan, Jenkins, Jennifer, Turner, Rebecca, Parker, A.L., Sinclair, Alison, Davies, Sian, Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Dart, R.L., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Benz, H.M., 2013, Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Himalaya and vicinity (ver.1.1, Jan. 28, 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-J, scale 1:9,000,000,

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