Field Trip to the central Alps
ERTH 4807 Field Geology II
27 August - 7 September, 2016
The European Alps form a ca. 1000 km-long fold and thrust belt which has been the focus of geological research for more than 200 years. However, unlike some other orogens, the European Alps record a complex history of collisional and extensional events, making discerning its tectonic evolution an ongoing task.
Western Europe experienced four orogenic cycles in the Phanerozoic: (1) Cadomian (Cambrian), (2) Caledonian (Ordovician - early Devonian), (3) Hercynian or Variscan (late Devonian - Carboniferous), and (4) Alpine (Mesozoic to present), as well as two important periods of failed rifting in the Permian (“Verrucano”) and late Paleogene (Rhine-Bresse graben system in the foreland of the Alps). The Alpine basement rocks were involved both in the Variscan orogeny and the Permian rifting.
The focus of this trip was the spectacular geology of central and eastern Switzerland and northern Italy. During our field trip across the central European Alps, we mainly investigated the results of Alpine metamorphism and deformation and also studied structures and mineral assemblages that formed during the Variscan orogeny. We visited world-famous geological locations such as the Glarus Thrust (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Campolungo area known for its outstanding mineral occurrences (ruby in dolomitic marble!) and spectacular recumbent folds, and the Permian crust-mantle transition exposed at Valmalenco.