Subsurface imaging, TAIGER experiments and tectonic models of Taiwan

Francis T. Wu, H. Kuo-Chen, K. D. McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The seismicity, deformation rates and associated erosion in the Taiwan region clearly demonstrate that plate tectonic and orogenic activities are at a high level. Major geologic units can be neatly placed in the plate tectonic context, albeit critical mapping in specific areas is still needed, but the key processes involved in the building of the island remain under discussion. Of the two plates in the vicinity of Taiwan, the Philippine Sea Plate (PSP) is oceanic in its origin while the Eurasian Plate (EUP) is comprised partly of the Asian continental lithosphere and partly of the transitional lithosphere of the South China Sea basin. It is unanimously agreed that the collision of PSP and EU is the cause of the Taiwan orogeny, but several models of the underlying geological processes have been proposed, each with its own evolutionary history and implied subsurface tectonics.TAIGER (TAiwan Integrated GEodynamics Research) crustal- and mantle-imaging experiments recently made possible a new round of testing and elucidation. The new seismic tomography resolved structures under and offshore of Taiwan to a depth of about 200. km. In the upper mantle, the steeply east-dipping high velocity anomalies from southern to central Taiwan are clear, but only the extreme southern part is associated with seismicity; toward the north the seismicity disappears. The crustal root under the Central Range is strongly asymmetrical; using 7.5. km/s as a guide, the steep west-dipping face on the east stands in sharp contrast to a gradual east-dipping face on the west. A smaller root exists under the Coastal Range or slightly to the east of it. Between these two roots lies a well delineated high velocity rise spanning the length from Hualien to Taitung. The 3-D variations in crustal and mantle structures parallel to the trend of the island are closely correlated with the plate tectonic framework of Taiwan. The crust is thickest in the central Taiwan collision zone, and although it thins toward the south, the crust is over 30. km thick over the subduction in the south; in northern Taiwan, the northward subducting PSP collides with Taiwan and the crust thins under northern Taiwan where the subducting indenter reaches 50. km in depth. The low Vp/Vs ratio of around 1.6 at a mid-crustal depth of 25. km in the Central Range indicates that current temperatures could exceed 700. °C. The remarkable thickening of the crust under the Central Range, its rapid uplift without significant seismicity, its deep exhumation and its thermal state contribute to make it the core of orogenic activities on Taiwan Island.The expanded network during the TAIGER deployment captured broadband seismic data yielding enhanced S-splitting results with mainly SKS/SKKS data. The polarization directions of the fast S-waves follow very closely the structural trends of the island, supporting the concept of a vertically coherent Taiwan orogeny in the outer few hundred kilometers of the Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-208
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2014


  • Collision
  • Focal mechanisms
  • Orogeny
  • Plate boundary
  • Seismicity
  • Subduction
  • Tectonics
  • Tomography


Dive into the research topics of 'Subsurface imaging, TAIGER experiments and tectonic models of Taiwan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this