Crustal structure and active tectonics in the Eastern Alps

Bruckl E., Behm M., Decker K., Grad M., Guterch A., Keller GR., Thybo H.


29(2), 2010, art. TC2011, 10.1029/2009TC002491

During the last decade, a series of controlled source seismic experiments brought new insight into the crustal and lithospheric structure of the Eastern Alps and their adjacent tectonic provinces. A fragmentation of the lithosphere into three blocks, Europe (EU), Adria (AD), and the new Pannonian fragment (PA), was interpreted and a triple junction was inferred. The goal of this study has been to relate these deep crustal structures to active tectonics. We used elastic plate modeling to reconsider the Moho fragmentation. We interpret subduction of EU below AD and PA from north to south and underthusting of AD mantle below PA from southwest to northeast. The Moho fragmentation correlates well with major upper crustal structures and is supported by gravity, seismic, and geodetic data. An analysis of crustal thickening suggests that active convergence is associated with continued thrusting and lateral extrusion in the central Eastern Alps and thickening of the Adriatic indenter under the Southern Alps. According to the velocity relations at the triple junction, PA moves relative to EU and AD along ENE and SE striking faults, mainly by strike slip. An eastward directed extensional component is compensated by the lateral extrusion of the central Eastern Alps. The Periadriatic (Insubric) line east of the triple junction and the mid‐Hungarian fault zone have relatively recently lost their role as first‐order active structures. We favor the idea that the Pannonian fragment and the TISZA block merged to a “soft” microplate surrounded by the Eastern and Southern Alpine, Carpathian, and Dinaric orogens.