A lithospheric profile across northern Taiwan: From arc-continent collision to extension

Harm J.A. Van Avendonk, Kirk D. McIntosh, Hao Kuo-Chen, Luc L. Lavier, David A. Okaya, Francis T. Wu, Chien Ying Wang, Chao Shing Lee, Char Shine Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

During arc-continent collision, buoyant sections of sediments and rifted continental crust from a subducting plate will accrete to the forearc of the upper plate as long as this backstop remains intact. Deformation of the oceanic arc and forearc block may ultimately lead to accretion of these mafic rock units to the new orogen. The Taiwan mountain belt, which formed at ~6.5 Ma by oblique convergence between the Eurasian passive margin and the overriding Luzon arc in northern Taiwan, offers important insight in this process, since the collision is more advanced in the north than in the south. The incipient stage of arc-collision can be studied in southern Taiwan, while the northern portion of the orogen is presently undergoing collapse due to a flip in the subduction polarity between the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. In this study, we seismically image the structure of the northern section of the mountain belt with a tomographic inversion. We present marine and land-based seismic refraction data, as well as local earthquake data, from transect T6 of the Taiwan Integrated Geodynamic Research (TAIGER) program across the Taiwan mountain belt and the adjacent Ryukyu arc. Our 2-D compressional seismic velocity model for this transect, which is based on a tomographic inversion of 10 213 P-wave arrival times, shows that the Eurasian crystalline continental crust thickens from ~24 km in the Taiwan Strait to ~40 km beneath the eastern Central Range of Taiwan. The detailed seismic velocity structure of the Taiwan mountain belt shows vertical continuity in the upper 15 km, which suggests that rocks are exhumed to the surface here from the middle crust in a near-vertical path. The continental crust of the westernmost Ryukyu arc is almost as thick (~40 km) as in the adjacent northern Central Range of Taiwan, and it appears to override the leading edge of the Philippine Sea Plate offshore northeastern Taiwan. If we assume that the western Ryukyu arc crust also thickened in the collision, then the mountain belt is wider and less thick in northern Taiwan than in central Taiwan (~50 km), which may be the result of post-collisional extension in the north.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-346
Number of pages16
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Volume204
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Continental margins
  • Convergent
  • Crustal structure
  • Seismic tomography

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