From the Variscan to the Alpine Orogeny: crustal structure of the Bohemian Massif and the Western Carpathians in the light of the SUDETES 2003 seismic data

Hrubcova P., Sroda P., Grad M., Geissler WH., Guterch A., Vozar J., Hegedus E.

Geophysical Journal International

183(2), 2010, 611–633, 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04766.x

The Variscan orogeny is the major Middle to Late Palaeozoic tectonometamorphic event in central Europe, and the Bohemian Massif is the largest exposure of rocks deformed during this orogeny. The Bohemian Massif consists of the Saxothuringian, Barrandian and Moldanubian units. Adjacent to this massif in the southeast, the Western Carpathians form an arc-shaped mountain range related to the Alpine orogeny during the Cretaceous to Tertiary. The complex crustal-scale geological structure of the Variscan Bohemian Massif and the Western Carpathians, and especially their contact, were analysed in this study employing the data of the SUDETES 2003 international seismic refraction experiment. The analysed seismic data were acquired along the 740 km long, NW–SE oriented S04 profile that crossed the Bohemian Massif and the Western Carpathians before terminating in the Pannonian Basin. The data were interpreted by 2-D trial-and-error forward modelling of P waves, and additional constraints on crustal structure were provided by gravity modelling.

The complex velocity structure derived in our analysis included low velocities of 5.85 km s−1 at the contact of the Saxothuringian and Barrandian units that reflect the presence of low-density granites. There are distinct lateral variations in deep crustal structure in the transition between the Bohemian Massif and the Western Carpathians. The abrupt change of the crustal thickness in this transition zone may be associated with the Pieniny Klippen Belt, a deep-seated boundary between the colliding Palaeozoic lithospheric plate to the north and the ALCAPA microplate to the south. In the upper crust of this transition, low velocities of 4 km s−1 extend to 6 km and represent the sedimentary fill of the Carpathian Flysch and Foredeep that thins towards the foreland. This basin is also expressed as a pronounced gravity low. The Moho in the Carpathians reaches a depth of 32–33 km. In contrast, in the Pannonian Basin the Moho rises to a depth of 25 km, which corresponds to the Pannonian gravity high.