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Geology of the Alps



Geology of the Alps

O. Adrian Pfiffner

ISBN: 978-1-118-70811-8 April 2014 Wiley-Blackwell 392 Pages

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The Alps, with their outstanding outcrop conditions, represent a superb natural laboratory for many geological processes, and have played a crucial role in the history of geology. This book gives an up-to-date and holistic overview of the key aspects of Alpine geology.

After a brief presentation of the plate tectonic framework, the rock suites are discussed, starting with the pre-Triassic crystalline basement, followed by Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary sequences. The lithological description of the rock types is supplemented by a discussion of their paleogeographic and plate tectonic contexts.

The book goes on to describe the structure of the Alps (including the Jura Mountains and the Alpine foreland to the north and south) illustrated by numerous cross-sections. The evolution of the Alps as a mountain chain incorporates a discussion of the Alpine metamorphic history and a compilation of orogenic timetables. The final sections cover the evolution of Alpine drainage patterns and the region’s glacial history.

Readership: The book is essential reading for students and lecturers on Alpine courses and excursions, and all earth-scientists interested in the geology of the region.

Preface  viii

1 The Alps in their Plate Tectonic Framework  1

1.1 Older Mountain Chains in Europe  2

1.2 Break-up of Pangaea and Opening of the Alpine Tethys 8

1.3 The Alpine System in Europe 12

1.4 Structure of the Alps 14

References   20

2 The pre-Triassic Basement of the Alps  23

2.1 The pre-Triassic Basement in the Black Forest and Vosges  25

2.2 The pre-Triassic Basement of the External Massifs 29

External Massifs in the Western Alps 30

External Massifs in the Central Alps 32

External Massifs in the Eastern Alps 37

2.3 The pre-Triassic Basement of the Penninic Nappes 39

2.4 The pre-Triassic Basement of the Austroalpine Nappes 40

2.5 The pre-Triassic Basement of the Southern Alps 43

2.6 Palaeozoic Sediments in the Eastern and Southern Alps  49

The Palaeozoic in the Carnic Alps  49

The Palaeozoic of the Greywacke Zone 51

The Palaeozoic of the Innsbruck Quartz Phyllite 51

2.7 The Variscan Orogen at the Close of the Palaeozoic  54

2.8 Post-Variscan Sediments and Volcanics of the Permian 58

The North Swiss Permo-Carboniferous Trough  58

The Permo-Carboniferous in the Helvetic Nappe Complex 59

The Permo-Carboniferous in the Penninic Nappe Complex 62

The Permo-Carboniferous in the Austroalpine Nappe Complex 64

The Permo-Carboniferous in the Southalpine Nappe System 66

References   68

3 The Alpine Domain in the Mesozoic  71

3.1 The Mesozoic Rock Suites 72

The European Continental Margin 72

Oceanic Arms between the Baltic and Africa  81

The Adriatic Continental Margin  90

3.2 Plate Tectonic Evolution 95

Triassic: Epicontinental Platforms  95

Jurassic: Opening up of Oceanic Arms  97

Cretaceous: Opening and Closing of Oceanic Arms 116

References  125

4 The Alpine Domain in the Cenozoic  129

4.1 The Cenozoic Sedimentary Sequences 131

4.2 Late Cretaceous and Paleogene Flyschs  136

4.3 Eocene–Oligocene Flyschs 140

4.4 Oligocene–Miocene Molasse in the Northalpine Foreland Basin 143

4.5 Oligocene–Pliocene Sediments in the Po Basin   147

4.6 The Jura Mountains 148

4.7 Intramontane Basins   149

4.8 Plutonic and Volcanic Rocks  149

4.9 Tectonic and Palaeogeographical Evolution  154

References  165

5 Tectonic Structure of the Alps 169

5.1 The Western Alps 173

The Jura Mountains 178

The Subalpine Chains of the Dauphinois 179

The Penninic Nappes and their Contact with the Adriatic Continental Margin  186

5.2 The Central Alps  192

The Jura Mountains 200

The Molasse Basin 204

The Helvetic Nappe System  209

The Penninic Nappe System  231

The Austroalpine Nappe System  240

The Southalpine Nappe System   242

5.3 The Eastern Alps 245

The Molasse Basin 251

The Helvetic Nappe System  255

The Penninic Nappe System  257

The Austroalpine Nappe System  258

The Southalpine Nappe System and Dolomites   264

5.4 The Deep Structure of the Alps 265

References  275

6 Tectonic Evolution of the Alps 281

6.1 Alpine Metamorphism   283

Regional Distribution of Alpine Metamorphism  283

High-Pressure Metamorphism  286

Temperature-Dominated Regional Metamorphism 290

Contact Metamorphism  291

6.2 The Cretaceous Orogeny   294

6.3 The Cenozoic Orogeny296

6.4 Uplift and Erosion    322

References  330

7 The Latest Steps in the Evolution of the Alps 335

7.1 Miocene and Pliocene Drainage Patterns  337

7.2 Pleistocene Glaciations 342

7.3 Recent Movements and Seismicity  348

7.4 Rockslides, Creeping Slopes, Erosion by Modern Rivers 355

References  364

Index  367

“The paperback price seems remarkable for a volume with so much in it.”  (The Open University Geological Society Journal, 1 October 2015)