Numerous geoscientific investigations have been conducted on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau and adjacent areas for understanding crustal and mantle deformation associated with the indentation of the Indian Plate into Eurasia. A number of key issues, such as the causes of a sudden change of fast polarization orientations from N-S to almost E-W at approximately 26°N revealed by shear wave splitting (SWS) studies, and the geodynamic implications of the transition still remain enigmatic, partially due to the lack of sufficient SWS measurements on the Indochina Peninsula. Here we employ the SWS technique to systematically illuminate upper mantle anisotropy beneath the Indochina Peninsula with an unprecedented data coverage. The resulting 409 SWS measurements from 29 stations show that upper mantle anisotropy beneath the vast majority of the study area is characterized by dominantly E-W fast orientations which are nearly orthogonal to the strike of most of the major tectonic features in the study area, ruling out significant lithospheric contributions to the observed anisotropy. This observation, when combined with results from seismic tomography, numerical modeling, surface movement, and focal mechanism investigations, suggests that the observed azimuthal anisotropy is mostly the consequence of absolute plate motion or the westward rollback of the oceanic Indian slab. The flow system induced by the rollback or absolute plate motion may experience regional alteration from mantle upwelling along the eastern edge of the slab and through a previously detected slab window, leading to local variations in the observed splitting parameters.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for High Performance Computing Research


This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 41606043 and 41676033), the National Program on Global Change and Air-Sea Interaction (grant GASI-GEOGE-05), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (grant kx0135020171801), and the United States National Science Foundation (grant 0911346).

Keywords and Phrases

APM; Indochina Peninsula; Mantle flow; Shear wave splitting; Slab rollback; Subduction

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2018 American Geophysical Union (AGU), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2018

Included in

Geology Commons