This page is under construction. It is dedicated to the investigation of active tectonics in the Pamirs.


This project will develop a research program on active earthquake deformation of the northern foothills of the Pamir Mountains, Kyrgyzstan with European colleagues to address basic problems in the formation of large mountain belts and applied problems in the mitigation of earthquake hazards.


Along leading edge of the Pamir Mountains is a fault system that accommodates some of the deformation associated with the collision of India with Eurasia. Because of the arid environment, lack of human degradation of the landscape, spectacular exposures of the effects of recent earthquakes and of the uplift of the mountain, this area is a premier natural laboratory for the investigation of the following significant problems:

1) As India has collided with Eurasia over the last 40 million years, the deformation has spread to the interior of Eurasia, uplifting Tibet, and driving faulting as far north as Lake Baikal. The collision and this deformation continue today. The partitioning of that deformation among the different blocks and their bounding faults in both space and time is an outstanding question in our understanding of large-scale continental deformation.

2) We assume that earthquakes and their associated secondary deformation are the quantum deformation events by which most mountain building occurs: if enough earthquakes are repeated, they will accommodate the large scale continental deformation, mountains will be built, and rocks will be permanently deformed. By investigating an area where active deformation in the form of earthquakes occurs as well as where the longer term deformation is evident in the nearby mountain range, we may substitute space for time, and investigate how the short term deformation is accumulated into longer-term mountain growth.

3) The earthquakes and associated geologic structures are analogous to those in the Los Angeles Basin such as that along which the devastating Northridge earthquake. Similar structures exist in Caucasus, Indian and Nepal Himalayas. The proposed research will provide data on the geometry and rates of deformation of these types of structures as well as promote the development of computer mapping and modeling tools for their characterization. Therefore the results from this work may be applied to the characterization of the significant geologic hazard that these structures pose to the Los Angeles Basin.

Hindu Kush-Pamir seismicity from John Hernlund
NSF Proposal Project summary
Nice images of the area
Arrowsmith and Strecker GSA Bulletin manuscript has been acdepted (March 18, 1999)!

Abstract for GSA '97

The Alai Valley in 3D:

perspective view of Landsat TM draped on DEM, looking toward the southwest over the Trans Alai Mountains (image by S. McManus)
Here are some more:
Zoom to the southwest
View to the east
View to the southeast
View to the west

Nice view up the Altyn Dara Valley

Pamir Hypsometry from Sean McManus

Map of topography and hypsometry of the Pamir region and central Asia
Map of topography and hypsometry of ~300 km2 drainage basins of the Pamir region and central Asia
Average hypsometry along profiles perpendicular to the tectonic fabric
Average hypsometry along profiles parallel to the tectonic fabric along the Kyzyl Su River

Recently produced topographic maps document active faulting in the Northern Pamirs

Central Asia field location

Stereo satellite photos

View of the Alai Valley (the north edge of the Pamir Mountains).

Thrust faults along the south portion of the valley are one of the focuses of this project. These are two US Declassified Intelligence Satellite Photos. View of Alai 
Proposal for Summer '96 project

Hits since April 18, 1998:

Pages maintained by
Prof. Ramón Arrowsmith

Last modified March 25, 1999