Boundary Element Analysis of Active Mountain Building at the Himalayan Range Front

Thomas Thompson, Harvard University

Photo of Thomas Thompson

The Himalayas are the tallest mountains on Earth, with several peaks above 8,000 meters, including Mt. Everest. This relief results from the ongoing collision of the Indian and Asian tectonic plates. In the geometrically complex fault system at the Himalayan Range Front, the deformation of these plates produces great earthquakes, like the recent Mw=7.8 Nepal earthquake. Here we develop elastic boundary element models of the geometrically complex fault system at the Himalayan Range Front. Using these models, we can assess the required tectonic driving forces and the stress heterogeneity internal to the mountain range. Furthermore, we can test hypotheses regarding the frictional strength and activity level of poorly studied, potentially active faults, like the Main Central Thrust and the South Tibetan Detachment System. This approach will provide insight into mountain-building processes and lead to improvements in earthquake hazards analysis.

Abstract Author(s): T. Ben Thompson, Brendan J. Meade