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Mountain building and basin formation processes: a combined experimental and field approach

English title Mountain building and basin formation processes: a combined experimental and field approach
Applicant Pfiffner Adrian
Number 122143
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Geologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Geology
Start/End 01.10.2008 - 30.09.2011
Approved amount 458'881.00
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Keywords (9)

tectonics; mountain building; analog experiments; numerical (FEM) experiments; continental compression and extension; basin formation; analogue experiments; transpression; transtension

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
GoalsThe aim of this research is to investigate the factors controlling the birth and evolution of mountain chains and basins. In particular we wish to understand the processes that contribute to the growth of a mountain chain and the formation of sedimentary basins. ImportanceOrogens as such remain a key question in the Earth science community and society (2002 was the International Year of Mountains, 2008 is the Year of Planet Earth). Looking into the geologic past, the birth and decay of mountain chains influenced amongst other the ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and thus the paleoclimate. Sedimentary basins on the other hand contain many of the resources like oil, gas and drinking water, which are on of the foundations of our society. Research frame and methodologyThe investigation uses three independent approaches: (A) field observations (structural interpretation and determination of exhumation paths), (B) analogue modeling, (C) high-resolution numerical modeling.In the question of building a mountain belt we intend to study the processes governing the (rock and surface) uplift responsible for the build-up of a mountain range. This will include the growth of large-scale antiformal structures (basement uplifts) and imbricate thrusting of crystalline basement nappes as observed in collisional orogens. We intend to focus on two orogens, the Swiss Alps and the Peruvian Andes. Orogens evolve mostly from ancient basins. It is therefore of interest to know how the ancient basin geometry influences the internal structure and growth of an orogen. For this reason we will design a number of experiments aimed at identifying the main factors controlling the geometry of graben or rift structures. We are particularly interested in understanding the factors that control if a basin becomes symmetric or asymmetric. The model basins will be compared with field examples and seismic sections (e.g. Norwegian margin and Taupo Rift Zone, New Zealand). Numerical experiments are foreseen on two scales. Small-scale experiments aimed at the upper 5 to 10 km of the model orogen should enable us to track particle paths within growing antiformal structures. A set of larger-scale experiments will be designed such as to study the pattern of surface and rock uplift as observed in Alpine structures. These experiments will allow us to compare the pattern of active uplift and seismicity in the Aar massif basement uplift and the Swiss Alps in general.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Structural map of the Helvetic zone of the Swiss Alps, including Vorarlberg (Austria) and Haute Savoie (France)
Pfiffner O. Adrian et al. (2011), Structural map of the Helvetic zone of the Swiss Alps, including Vorarlberg (Austria) and Haute Savoie (France), swisstopo/Landesgeologie, Wabern.
Geologie der Alpen
Pfiffner O. Adrian (2010), Geologie der Alpen, UTB / Haupt, Bern Stuttgart Wien.
Inversion of extensional sedimentary basins: A numerical evaluation of the localisation of shortening.- Earth & Planetary Science Letters
Buiter Susanne J.H., Pfiffner O. Adrian, Beaumont Chris, Inversion of extensional sedimentary basins: A numerical evaluation of the localisation of shortening.- Earth & Planetary Science Letters, in Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 1-13.
Morphologic evolution of the Central Andes of Peru
Gonzalez Laura, Pfiffner O. Adrian, Morphologic evolution of the Central Andes of Peru, in Int. J. Earth Sci (Geol. Rundsch), 1-15.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
CorseAlp Meeting 09.04.2011 Corsica France
GeoMod2010 27.09.2010 Lisabon Portugal
EGU General Assembly 02.05.2010 Wien
29th Nordic Winter Meeting 11.01.2010 Oslo Norwegen
American Geophysical Union Fall meeting 14.12.2009 San Francisco USA
Swiss Geoscience Meeting 20.11.2009 Lugano
EGU General Assembly 20.04.2009 Wien
American Geophysical Union Fall meeting 15.12.2008 San Francisco USA
Geo2008 29.09.2008 Aachen


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Einstein: Geologie im Sandkasten SF DRS German-speaking Switzerland 21.10.2010
Other activities UNESCO Weltnaturerbe Tekontikarena Sardona German-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 09.11.2009
Media relations: radio, television ScienceSuisse: Architektur der Erde SRG SSF idéé suisse International Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 09.11.2008

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
132196 Structure and evolution of an antiformal nappe stack (Aar massif, Central Alps): Formation of mechanical anisotropies and their bearing on natural risks 01.10.2010 Project funding (Div. I-III)
137530 Mountain building processes: a combined field and experimental approach 01.10.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
109320 Mountain building processes: a combined field and experimental approach 01.10.2005 Project funding (Div. I-III)
147046 4D Analogue modelling of oblique extension: from continental rifting to passive margin formation 01.04.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)

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