The Asian continent was formed through the amalgamation of several major continental blocks that were formerly separated by the Paleo-Asian and Tethyan Oceans. During this process, the Asian continent underwent a long period of continental crustal growth and tectonic deformation, making it the largest and youngest continent on Earth. This paper presents a review of the application of geophysical electromagnetic methods, mainly the magnetotelluric (MT) method, in recent investigations of the diverse tectonic features across the Asian continent. The case studies cover the major continental blocks of Asia, the Central Asian orogenic system, the Tethyan orogenic system, as well as the western Pacific subduction system. In summary, most of the major continental blocks of Asia exhibit a three-layer structure with a resistive upper crust and upper mantle and a relatively conductive mid-lower crust. Large-scale conductors in the upper mantle were interpreted as an indication of lithospheric modification at the craton margins. The electrical structure of the Central Asian orogenic system is generally more resistive than the bordering continental blocks, whereas the Tethyan orogenic system displays more conductive, with pervasive conductors in the lower crust and upper mantle. The western Pacific subduction system shows increasing complexity in its electrical structure from its northern extent to its southern extent. In general, the following areas of the Asian continent have increasingly conductive lithospheric electrical structures, which correspond to a transition from the most stable areas to the most active tectonic areas of Asia: the major continental blocks, the accretionary Central Asian orogenic system, the collisional Tethyan orogenic system, and the western Pacific subduction system. As a key part of this review, a three-dimensional (3-D) model of the lithospheric electrical structure of a large portion of the Tibetan Plateau is presented and discussed in detail; the model indicates tearing of the underthrusting Indian slab as well as complex crustal conductor geometries, which are not obviously consistent with the hypothesis of a continuous, eastward channel flow. These studies have greatly enhanced our knowledge of the formation and deformation processes of the Asian continent. Lastly, future research to expand field data coverage, improve related techniques, and integrate data from other disciplines is suggested.
Surveys in Geophysics – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 15, 2017
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