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INDEPTH (International Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya)

magma chamber chart

Project INDEPTH (International Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya) is a multidisciplinary geophysical and geological investigation of the Himalayas and Tibet. Field projects associated with INDEPTH I, II, and III took place between 1992-2000 and covered Southern to Central Tibet. INDEPTH IV’s field season began in May/June 2007 with the acquisition of an active source seismic profile in NE Tibet.

Previous seismic studies have significantly elucidated the response of Asia to the impact of the Indian subcontinent from Southern to Central Tibet. The INDEPTH (International Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya) IV transect across the northeast boundary of Tibet completes a profile across the entire Tibetan plateau and is expected to clarify the subduction of Asian continental crust beneath the Tibetan Plateau along its northern margin and to probe the geometry and depth extent of the Kunlun Fault.

The collision of the Indian and Asian plates over the past ~55 Ma created the Himalaya and uplifted the Tibetan Plateau. During convergence both plates experienced significant deformation and crustal thickening. Debate continues regarding how Asia has responded to the embedding of the Indian subcontinent with theories including indentor tectonics leading to terrane escape along lithospheric strike-slip faults and lower-crustal ductile flow.

INDEPTH IV incorporates a wide variety of geophysical data. Our field studies commenced in summer 2007 with the acquisition of a 270 km, high-resolution controlled-source seismic profile across the Kunlun suture and the deployment of broadband seismometers across the Kunlun and Jinsha sutures for eighteen months recording. Magnetotellurics and geological mapping in 2008 will complement the seismic acquisition.

Chinese institutions involved in the multinational collaboration include the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (CAGS), Chengdu University of Technology, and China University of Geosciences. North American and European institutions include Cornell University, Stanford University, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Missouri, New Mexico State University, Cambridge, Alberta, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Kiel, and University of Haifa.



Spratt, J.E., Jones, A.G., Klemperer, S.L., Wei, W., and INDEPTH MT Team, Discontinuous electrical conductivity across the Yarlung Zangbo Suture, Southern Tibet, implies a barrier to channel flow, J. Geophys. Res., in revision.

2013  Karplus, M.S., Klemperer, S.L., Lawrence, J.F., Zhao, W., Mechie, J., Tilmann, F., Sandvol, E., and Ni, J.  Ambient-noise tomography of north Tibet limits geological terrane signature to upper-middle crust.  Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 808-813, doi:10.1002/GRL.50202, 2013.


2011    Karplus, M.S., Zhao, W., Klemperer, S.L., Wu, Z., Mechie, J., Shi, D., Brown, L.D., Chen, C. (2011), Injection of Tibetan crust beneath the south Qaidam Basin: Evidence from INDEPTH wide-angle seismic data, Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, B07301, doi:10.1029/2010JB007911.

Download Document(s): PDF icon Karplusetal.IN4WA.pub_.2011


2008   Zhao, W., Brown, L.,Wu, Z., Klemperer, S.L., Shi, D., Mechie, J., Su, H., Tilmann, F., Karplus, M., and Makovsky, Y. Seismology across the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, vol. 89, p. 487.

Download Document(s): PDF icon ZhaoKarplus.Indepth4.EOS_.2008