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Alpine orogeny

http://www.earth.leeds.ac.uk/structure/alps/essay/index.htm
Formed by the collision between the Italian promontory (so-called "Apulia") with the rest of
Europe about 45 million years ago, the Alps are the classic mountain belt. The mountains are the
surface expression of thickened continental crust, formed by compressional deformation that
accommodated continued movement between Apulia and the rest of Europe after the initial
collision. The main movement only ended about 6 million years ago. So as mountain belts go,
the Alps are only recently deceased!
The Alps, as most other collision mountain belts, can be divided into an external and internal
zone. The external consists of rocks that are relatively weakly deformed and metamorphosed.
Study of these areas provides us with an understanding of how rocks deform in the upper crust,
near to the Earth's surface. The internal zones consist of rocks that are much more complex,
having been deformed several times under metamorphic conditions. The metamorphism results
from these areas having once been deeply buried. Consequently, the internal, metamorphosed
Alps provide examples of rocks that deformed in the deeper crust. Additionally, the internal
zone includes the suture between the two, originally distinct continental blocks whose collision
initiated the mountain building and deformation we see today. This part of the mountain belt
also contains highly altered remnants of the ocean floor that once separated the two continents.
The now-vanished ocean is called Tethys.
Apart from the zones of different complexity that represent different parts of the orogen, there is
another fundamental division that can be made - basement and cover. Alpine basement is
crystalline material, metamorphic and igneous rocks, that derive from an earlier period of
tectonism, some 300 million years ago. It is overlain unconformably by sediments that would
have been undeformed by mountain building events were it not for the Alpine orogeny. These
sediments are called cover. Additionally there are young sediments derived from erosion of the
growing Alpine mountain chain. This syn-orogenic material is called molasse (sometimes flysch
if it was deposited in deep water).
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http://www.jncc.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=4175&block=2
In late Mesozoic times (c. 23065 Ma), that part of the Earths crust destined to become Europe
was affected by compressional forces from the south.
The Tethys Ocean which had separated Europe from Africa through much of Mesozoic time
began to narrow as its ocean crust was subducted, and this ocean is now represented by mere
remnants of oceanic crust in the eastern Mediterranean area.
The Alpine Orogeny is the result of the convergence and collision of Africa with Europe,
closing the western part of the Tethys Ocean during the Tertiary Sub-Era (c. 65 to 2 Ma).

The most obvious features of this episode of Earth history are the European Alps, the result of
uplift and compression. In the UK, the effects of the Alpine Orogeny are less obvious than those
of the Variscan, the major Alpine collision zone being some 1000 km south of Dorset. However,
the knock-on effects of the Alpine Orogeny have formed large structures gently deforming the
Mesozoic rocks of the south coast of England, such as the monocline affecting the Isle of Wight
and southern Dorset.
Alpine effects in Britain were probably magnified as a result of the opening of the Atlantic
Ocean in early Tertiary times.
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http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Alpine-orogeny
The Alps arose as a result of the pressure exerted on sediments of the Tethys Ocean basin as its
Mesozoic and early Cenozoic strata were pushed against the stable Eurasian landmass by the
northward-moving African landmass. Most of this occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene
epochs. The pressure formed great recumbent folds (nappes) that rose out of what had become
the Tethys Sea and pushed northward, often breaking and sliding one over the other to form
gigantic thrust faults. Crystalline rocks, which are exposed in the higher central regions, are the
rocks forming Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and high peaks in the Pennine Alps and Hohe
Tauern.
During the approximately 100 million years of open ocean, the rivers on the surrounding
landmasses transported layers of mud, sand and gravel into the depths of the Tethys Ocean and
formed compacted sediment layers several thousand meters in thickness. These same processes
are continuing in our present oceans.
About 100 million years ago the process of spreading was halted in the Tethys Ocean and the
African continent broke away from the South American plate and began a northward movement.
As a result of this process, the soft layers of ocean sediment were compressed and folded as they
were slowly thrust upwards. Caught in the middle of the merging continents, the area of the
Tethys Sea between Africa and Eurasia began to shrink.
The tremendous forces at work in the lower continental foundation caused the European base to
bend downward into the molten core and soften. The southern (African) landmass then continued
its northward movement over some one thousand kilometers. The slow folding and pleating of
the sediments as they rose up from the depths is believed to have initially formed a series of long
east-west island chains.
In the final stage of the Tethys Sea's disappearance, the large mass of material that was originally
far to the south was pressed onto and over the deep ocean layers. This is why in some areas of
the Alps you find younger sediments overlaid by much older material. Basically, as Africa
moved north, the European continent was subducted underneath it. The Alps are made up of a
pile of sliced off sheets (termed nappes by Alpine geologists) from the European margin, with
sheets of the southern continental margin on top. Also, as this was happening the elements were

at work weathering these soft materials at a high rate and filling the newly-made valley (what
was formerly the Tethys Sea basin) with sediment layers of mixed composition.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Alps
The Alps are a fold and thrust belt. Folding and thrusting is the expression of crustal shortening
which is caused by the convergent movements of the European and Apulian plates.
Breakup of Pangea
At the end of the Carboniferous period (300 Ma ago), the Hercynian or Variscan orogeny, in
which the supercontinent Pangaea formed from Gondwana and Laurasia, was ended. East of the
terranes that now form the Alps was the Paleo-Tethys Ocean.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alps
Geology and orogeny
The Alps form a part of a Tertiary orogenic belt of mountain chains, called the Alpide belt, that
stretches through southern Europe and Asia from the Atlantic all the way to the Himalayas. This
belt of mountain chains was formed during the Alpine orogeny. A gap in these mountain chains
in central Europe separates the Alps from the Carpathians off to the east. Orogeny took place
continuously and tectonic subsidence is to blame for the gaps in between.
The Alps arose as a result of the collision of the African and European tectonic plates, in which
the western part of the Tethys Ocean, which was formerly in between these continents,
disappeared. Enormous stress was exerted on sediments of the Tethys Ocean basin and its
Mesozoic and early Cenozoic strata were pushed against the stable Eurasian landmass by the
northward-moving African landmass. Most of this occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene
epochs. The pressure formed great recumbent folds, or nappes, that rose out of what had become
the Tethys Sea and pushed northward, often breaking and sliding one over the other to form
gigantic thrust faults. Crystalline basement rocks, which are exposed in the higher central
regions, are the rocks forming Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and high peaks in the Pennine Alps
and Hohe Tauern.
The formation of the Mediterranean Sea is a more recent development, and does not mark the
northern shore of the African landmass.
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http://www.es.ucl.ac.uk/undergrad/fieldwork/image/fieldtrips/SWEngland/geo3.htm
Plate Tectonic Setting For SouthWest England
Two major orogenic episodes have affected the rocks of the Southwest British Isles, the
Palaeozoic Variscan and the Tertiary Alpine Orogenies. The earlier event, the Variscan is the

primary event responsible for the evolution of Cornwall, whereas the Alpine Orogeny is reflected
in the gentle folding and thrust faulting of the Mesozoic sediments of Dorset.
The Alpine Orogeny
The Alpine Orogeny is a result of the Tertiary convergence and collision of Africa with Europe,
closing the western part of the Tethys Ocean. The most obvious features of this episode of Earth
history are the European Alps. In the UK, the effects of the Alpine Orogeny are less obvious
than those of the Variscan, the major collision zone being some 1000 km south of Dorset.
However, the knock-on effects of this orogen have formed large structures gently deforming the
Mesozoic rocks of the south coast of England. The monocline affecting the Isle of Wight and
southern Dorset are Alpine structures.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_orogeny
The Alpine orogeny (sometimes also called Alpide orogeny) is an orogenic phase in the Late
Mesozoic (Eoalpine) and Tertiary that formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt.
The Alpine orogeny occurred when the continents Africa and India and the small Cimmerian
plate collided (from the south) with Eurasia in the north. Convergent movements between the
tectonic plates (the Indian plate and the African plate from the south, the Eurasian plate from the
north, and many smaller plates and microplates) began already in the early Cretaceous, but the
major phases of mountain building began in the Paleocene to Eocene. Currently, the process
still continues in some of the Alpide mountain ranges.
The Alpine orogeny is considered one of the three major phases of orogeny in Europe that define
the geology of that continent, along with the Caledonian orogeny that formed the Old Red
Sandstone continent when the continents Baltica and Laurentia collided in the early Paleozoic,
and the Hercynian or Variscan orogeny that formed Pangaea when Gondwana and the Old Red
Sandstone continent collided in the middle to late Paleozoic.
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http://pages.unibas.ch/earth/tecto/Members/Schmid/alps/schmid_html/Text_Schmid.html
Regional tectonics: from the Rhine graben to the Po plain, a summary of the tectonic evolution
of the Alps and their forelands.
Firstly, this contribution gives a short overview of the overall architecture of the Western and
Central Alps and their forelands (Po-plain and northern foreland) on the basis of three recent
geophysical-geological transects, the locations of which are given in Figure 1. Secondly, the
evolution of the Alpine system is discussed in time slices, starting with Cretaceous orogeny and
ending with some evidence for very recent movements in the area of the Rhine graben. Some

aspects of neotectonics and earthquake hazard are addressed as well, but only as far as they are
directly related to tectonic movements which occurred during the geological past.
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http://www.8ung.at/geologie/eeinfueh.htm
Introduction to the geological zones of Austria
Austria can be separated into three main geological parts:
Alps (most parts of the Eastern Alps, northern rim of Southern Alps)
Molasse Zone and Tertiary basins in the East
Southern parts of the Bohemian Massif
Alps
The Alps represent an orogeny consisting of folds and thrusts, which was created by the collision
of Africa and N-Europe. This collision is, of course, a slow process, which started in the Upper
Jurassic (ca. 150 Ma ago) and is still in action today. As a consequence, the strata of a sea basin
("Tethys"), that had been deposited since Permian times (230 Ma), were folded and thrust on top
of each other (thrust sheets or nappes). Those nappes which used to be situated in the south were
thrust above the ones in the north.
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http://www.danstopicals.com/matterhorn.htm
The pyramid-shaped Matterhorn, the landmark of Zermatt, is largely made up of rocks of
African origin. The base of the mountain is composed of sedimentary rocks (chalk, limestone,
shale) and ocean-curstal rocks from the bed of the primeval Tethys Sea. The summit, from
about 3,400 meters up, consists of metamorphosed granites and gneisses of the Apulian plate, a
part of the African continental plate.
About 45 million years ago the African plate and European plate collided and the edge of the
European plate pushed under the African plate. As the Alps formed the sediment and volcanic
rock of the former Tethys sea which had existed between Africa and Europe were trapped under
the African plate. This rock metamorphosed into granites and gneisses. These rocks were pushed
further north and came to rest in the upper section of the mountain on top of much younger rocks
at its base.