Crust and upper mantle structure of the North China Craton and the NE Tibetan Plateau and its tectonic implications

Xuewei Bao, Xiaodong Song, Mingjie Xu, Liangshu Wang, Xiaoxiao Sun, Ning Mi, Dayong Yu, Hua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the Mesozoic-Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the North China Craton (NCC) and the NE Tibetan Plateau (TP) requires detailed knowledge of the lithospheric structure. Using dense regional networks and temporary deployments as well as updated reference models, we obtain the crust and upper mantle structure to 120. km depth. Our tomographic results show several major features, which have particular implications for the Weihe-Shanxi rift system (WSRS), deformation of the NE TP, and lithospheric evolution of the NCC. Beneath the WSRS, the crust gradually thickens from south to north, the lithospheric mantle gradually becomes slower, and the mid-lower crustal velocities are lower in the Weihe Rift, where rifting of the WSRS initiated. We suggest that along-strike variations of the lithospheric structures of the WSRS have played an important role in its multistage evolution. A low-velocity zone (LVZ) in the mid-crust beneath the Qilian Orogen is characterized by relatively higher velocities compared to LVZs in other parts of the TP. Thus, coherent lithospheric deformation may occur due to the high viscosity of the LVZ during early plateau growth, causing strong anisotropy to develop. The western NCC (including the Ordos Block and part of the Alashan Block) shows a high-velocity cratonic root extending to the base of our model. In contrast, the lithosphere of the eastern NCC appears to have been completely modified during the Mesozoic through Cenozoic and presents a thin lithosphere of relatively low velocities underlain by hot asthenosphere. We observed significant upper-mantle heterogeneities in the NCC, which may reflect its diachronous lithospheric modification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Ambient noise tomography
  • Lithospheric structure
  • North China Craton
  • Tibetan Plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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