This book discusses the anatomy and evolution of the Alps and serves as an example for illustrating processess that also take place, albeit in modified form, in other mountain belts. The book highlights what is special, or even unique, about the Alps, placing them in the context of the Mediterranean Collision Zone and compares them to the Himalayas and Andes in particular.
1. Introduction General idea: Serves for motivating the reader to read the rest of the book What makes the Alps different from other mountain chains and in what respect are the Alps unique? Summary of the historical role the Alps played for developing ideas of Mountain Building (nappe theory, cylindrism, continental drift and plate tectonics). Methods of research on collisional orogens: Tectonics, Geophysics, Petrology, sedimentology including oceanography, paleontology, geochemistry including dating minerals. Brief examples for break-throughs reached by these methods. 2. The Alps 2.1. Overview: Deep Structure (Geophysics) and plate-tectonic setting. Architecture of the Alpine orogen illustrated with tectonic map and profiles. Terminology of the tectonic and paleogeographic units. 2.2. From Rifting to Drifting: Opening of oceanic domains and ophiolites. Continental margins and their Mesozoic sedimentary cover. Sedimentary cover of the forelands (Helvetic nappes, Southern Alps, Austroalpine nappes) before the onset of convergence. 2.3. Subduction and Accretion: Syn-orogenic sedimentation in flysch basins. Processes of subduction, including high-pressure metamorphism. Accretion of slices of continental crust to the upper plate (Austroalpine) and processes of exhumation of the high-pressure rocks. Formation of the nappe stack. 2.4. Collision and propagation of deformation to the northern and southern forelands of the Alps. Post-nappe modifications of the overall geometry of the nappe stack. Propagation of deformation to the north (Helvetic nappes, Jura Moutains) and to the south (Southern Alps). High-temperature metamorphism and reasons for its exposure in the Lepontine and Tauern areas. Exhumation by erosional versus tectonic denudation (lateral extrusion associated with escape and orogen-parallel extension. 2.5. Neotectonics: What's happening today - are the Alps dead? Earthquake and other natural risks. 3. The Alps as a part of the Mediterranean collision zone 3.1. Brief Introduction to Alpino-type mountain chains between Gibraltar and Iran. Simple overview, mainly using maps. 3.2. Opening and closure of new oceanic domains in the Mediterranean area. Island-arc and back-arc systems, slab retreat (Western Mediterranean, Pannonian basin, Aegean Sea). Discuss the evolution of these rapidly evolving oceanic or quasi-oceanic basins that are superposed onto a larger-scale plate tectonic scenario, i.e. the collision between Africa and Europe and the disappearance of the main Tethyan Oceans (Alpine Tethys and Neotethys). 3.3. Relationship of the Alpine orogen to the Apennines, Carpathians and Dinarides. as well as to other orogens in the Mediterranean area. Geometry and transition between orogens ; their evolution in time and space. 4. Comparison of the Alps to other orogens Himalayas and Andes. 4.1. Super-collision in the Himalayas - an extreme case of the Alps. Show what would have happened to the Alps if collision had been as extensive as in the Himalayas. 4.2. Subduction-orogenesis in the Andes -a completely different kind of mountain building. Show how a mountain range can develop high topography even though there is much less accretion and shortening, and almost no exhumation of originally deep-seated rocks. 4.3. What makes the Alps so special? Final discussion, closing the circle to return to issues and questions raised in chapter 1.