Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 11, pp 1819–1831 | Cite as

A new method to constrain shallow crustal S-wave velocities based on direct P-wave amplitudes in receiver functions and its application in northeastern Tibet

  • Xu Wang
  • Ling ChenEmail author
  • Yuan Ling
  • Yifan Gao
  • Jianyong Zhang
  • Huajian Yao
Research Paper


A new method is developed to constrain S-wave velocity structures of the shallow crust based on frequency-dependent amplitudes of direct P-waves in P-wave receiver functions (P-RFs). This method involves the following two steps: first, the high-frequency approximate amplitude formula of direct P-waves in P-RFs of individual stations is used to fit the observed amplitude distribution against the ray parameters at different frequencies, and second, the S-wave velocity depth profile beneath each station is constrained according to an empirical correlation between frequency and depth. Unlike traditional inversion techniques, the newly developed method is not dependent on initial velocity models, and the lateral and vertical resolutions of the results are controlled by the interstation distance and the data frequency, respectively. The effectiveness of the method is verified by synthetic tests on various models. The method is then applied to teleseismic P-RF data from a NW-SE-trending linear seismic array extending from the northeastern Tibetan Plateau to the central Sichuan Basin to construct an S-wave velocity image of the shallow crust along the array. The imaged velocity structure is further analysed and compared with the regional geology. In particular, the structural differences of sedimentary basins in the cratonic area of the stable Sichuan Basin and tectonically active belts in northeastern Tibet are investigated. By combining our results with previous observations, the relationship between the surficial geology and deep processes in the study region is also discussed.


Receiver function Direct P-wave amplitude S-wave velocity structure Shallow crust Northeastern Tibet Sichuan Basin 


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The teleseismic three-component recordings were provided by the Seismic Array Laboratory of IGGCAS (doi:10.12129/IGGSL.Data.Observation, We thank the two anonymous reviewers and editors for their constructive comments and suggestions, which significantly improved the manuscript. This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41688103), the Strategic Priority Research Program (A) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDA20070302) and the Independent Project of the State Key Laboratory of the Lithospheric Evolution, IGGCAS (SKL-Z201704-11712180). The field work for seismic data collection was financially supported by the Projects (Grant Nos. SinoProbe-02-03, 2011ZX05008-001).

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xu Wang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ling Chen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yuan Ling
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yifan Gao
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jianyong Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Huajian Yao
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Laboratory of Seismology and Physics of Earth’s Interior and School of Earth and Space SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  5. 5.Mengcheng National Geophysical ObservatoryUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefei ShiChina

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