Understanding the mechanisms by which earthquake cycles produce folding and accommodate shortening is essential to quantify the seismic potential of active faults and integrate aseismic slip within our understanding of the physical mechanisms of the long-term deformation. However, measuring such small deformation signals in mountainous areas is challenging with current space-geodesy techniques, due to the low rates of motion relative to the amplitude of the noise. Here we successfully carry out a multitemporal Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar analysis over the North Qaidam fold-thrust system in NE Tibet, where eight Mw> 5.2 earthquakes occurred between 2003 and 2009. We report various cases of aseismic slip uplifting the thickened crust at short wavelengths. We provide a rare example of a steep, shallow, 13-km-long and 6-km-wide afterslip signal that coincides spatially with an anticline and that continues into 2011 in response to a Mw 6.3 event in 2003. We suggest that a buried seismic slip during the 2003 earthquake has triggered both plastic an-elastic folding and aseismic slip on the shallow thrusts. We produce a first-order two-dimensional model of the postseismic surface displacements due to the 2003 earthquake and highlight a segmented slip on three fault patches that steepen approaching the surface. This study emphasizes the fundamental role of shallow aseismic slip in the long-term and permanent deformation of thrusts and folds and the potential of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar for detecting and characterizing the spatiotemporal behavior of aseismic slip over large mountainous regions.
- InSAR time series
- Tibetan Plateau