A comparative study of seismic tomography models of the Chinese continental lithosphere

Xuezhen Zhang, Xiaodong Song, Jiangtao Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Chinese mainland is subject to complicated plate interactions that give rise to its complex structure and tectonics. While several seismic velocity models have been developed for the Chinese mainland, apparent discrepancies exist and, so far, little effort has been made to evaluate their reliability and consistency. Such evaluations are important not only for the application and interpretation of model results but also for future model improvement. To address this problem, here we compare five published shear-wave velocity models with a focus on model consistency. The five models were derived from different datasets and methods (i.e., body waves, surface waves from earthquakes, surface waves from noise interferometry, and full waves) and interpolated into uniform horizontal grids (0.5° × 0.5°) with vertical sampling points at 5 km, 10 km, and then 20 km intervals to a depth of 160 km below the surface, from which we constructed an averaged model (AM) as a common reference for comparative study. We compare both the absolute velocity values and perturbation patterns of these models. Our comparisons show that the models have large (> 4%) differences in absolute values, and these differences are independent of data coverage and model resolution. The perturbation patterns of the models also show large differences, although some of the models show a high degree of consistency within certain depth ranges. The observed inconsistencies may reflect limited model resolution but, more importantly, systematic differences in the datasets and methods employed. Thus, despite several seismic models being published for this region, there is significant room for improvement. In particular, the inconsistencies in both data and methodologies need to be resolved in future research. Finally, we constructed a merged model (ChinaM-S1.0) that incorporates the more robust features of the five published models. As the existing models are constrained by different datasets and methods, the merged model serves as a new type of reference model that incorporates the common features from the joint datasets and methods for the shear-wave velocity structure of the Chinese mainland lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-185
Number of pages25
JournalEarthquake Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese mainland
  • continental lithosphere
  • model comparison
  • shear-wave velocity model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geophysics
  • Geology


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