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Changes in the Circum-Alpine Paleoclimate and Paleoceanography as a Function of the Alpine Upliftment During the Miocene

English title Changes in the Circum-Alpine Paleoclimate and Paleoceanography as a Function of the Alpine Upliftment During the Miocene
Applicant Vennemann Torsten
Number 109456
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut de Minéralogie et Géochimie Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Geochemistry
Start/End 01.10.2005 - 30.09.2007
Approved amount 125'330.00
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Keywords (15)

molasse; climate; oceanography; alpine exhumation; hydrogen; Paleoclimate; paleoceanography; oxygen; strontium; neodymium; isotopes; geochemistry; Alps; Paratethys; tectonism

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
A number of recent environmental and climatic events worldwide have re-emphasized the importance of trying to understand the processes that control changes in Earth’s climate. In this context, much can be learned from the geologic record because the changes that occurred in the past provide essential information on possible future changes. Of particular interest to this project are the Tertiary circum-Alpine Molasse sediments as they have been deposited during a period of significant global climatic and oceanographic change. In addition, Alpine tectonism peaked during this period. The combination of sedimentation in marginal basins that were partly to completely isolated from other major oceanic basins and ongoing tectonism offers a good opportunity to study tectonic forcing of climate on a regional scale. A comparison of the paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic evolution indicated by marine and terrestrial fossils within these Molasse sediments with that of the global system may then allow for a more qualitative evaluation of the regional relationship between changes in the climate of Central Europe and the Alpine orogeny, including questions on when and why the Alps became a significant climatic divide in Europe. Results obtained as part of this project on both freshwater and marine Molasse sediments demonstrate that the fossils (e.g., bones and teeth from mammals, shark teeth, ostracods andforaminifera) are well preserved and their oxygen and/or carbon isotope compositions can be used to constrain the paleoclimate while the strontium and neodymium isotope compositions give insights on the paleoceanography for the circum-Alpine Molasse basins. Present results indicate that the changes in the north-Alpine paleoclimate parallel global climatic changes during the Oligocene-Miocene. Initial results for the southern parts also appear to do this, but there is a distinct difference in the water masses of the different basins and hence in their paleoceanographic evolution.Both Atlantic as well as Indo-Pacific water masses have played a role in the development of the Molasse basins but to different degrees, controlled by the opening or closure of the gateways. In addition, changes in tectonism in this region have, at times, contributed to a local influence of the hinterland geology on the isotopic tracers used for deciphering the paleooceanography. Oxygen isotope compositions of fresh-water fossils as well as of some “exotic” shark teeth apparently formed while the sharks frequented a freshwater environment also allow for estimates of the paleoaltitudes of the Alps at the time. Estimates thereof suggest altitudes comparable to those of today.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
100530 Changes in the regional paleoclimate and paleoceanography as a function of the alpine upliftment during the miocene 01.05.2003 Project funding (Div. I-III)
120311 The Early and Middle Triassic biotic recovery of marine Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes: Diversity, palaeogeography and palaeoenvironments 01.04.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)