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TOPOALPS - The Topographic History of the Alps and its Tectonic and Climatic Drivers (IP1)

English title TOPOALPS - The Topographic History of the Alps and its Tectonic and Climatic Drivers (IP1)
Applicant Willett Sean D.
Number 120499
Funding scheme Project funding (special)
Research institution Geologisches Institut ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Geology
Start/End 01.09.2008 - 30.09.2011
Approved amount 464'983.00
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Keywords (4)

landscape evolution; Alps; tectonics; sedimentation

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
This project is part of a multi-national, multi-institutional collaboration focused on establishing the topographic history of the Alps and the tectonic, erosional and climatic processes responsible for its development. Our objective is to estimate the major characteristics of Alpine topography, including elevation, relief, erosion rate, and geomorphic characteristics, from the present day back in time as far as possible. The overall collaboration will combine geochemical methods for calculating erosion rates at present and in the past, with compilations of paleo-geography, tectonic and sedimentation histories, in order to estimate the past topography and climate. All data will be synthesized through numerical modeling by surface process models that combine tectonic and climate forcing with landscape-evolution simulation. Major morphologic features of the Alps, such as the Jura fold-and-thrust belt, the high topography of the External Massifs, the longitudinal drainages of the Rhine and the Rhone valleys, and the preserved Mesozoic lid of the Eastern Alps will be simulated.The ETH components of the project encompass two projects. First, we will develop a new model for glacier erosion that involves physical modelling of ice flow, erosion and sediment transport. This will be tested in a number of small scale regional studies by comparison to erosion rate data and geomorphic studies. Second, we will develop a regional scale surface process model to synthesize data collected and compiled by our collaborators. This will be used to predict the topographic evolution of the Alps and the sediment flux from the Alps in response to tectonic and climatic scenarios. Application of this model at various scales and at different times in the geologic history of the Alps will allow comparison of diverse data types such as sedimentation rates and paleoclimate data.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
126408 Glacial Carving versus Tectonic Forcing. Documenting their Relative Contribution to Relief Formation 01.10.2009 Ambizione
127127 OSL-thermochronology: development and applications of a new thermochronometer of exceptionally low closure temperature 01.02.2010 Project funding
138229 TOPOALPS: The topographic history of the Alps 01.10.2011 Project funding