Alpine orogeny

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Tectonic map of southern Europe and the Middle East, showing tectonic structures of the western Alpide mountain belt.

The Alpine orogeny (sometimes also called Alpide orogeny) is an orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic[1] (Eoalpine) and Cenozoic that formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt. These mountains include (from west to east) the Atlas, the Rif, the Baetic Cordillera, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Apennine Mountains, the Dinaric Alps, the Hellenides, the Carpathians, the Balkan Mountains, the Taurus, the Caucasus, the Alborz, the Zagros, the Hindu Kush, the Pamir, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas. Sometimes other names occur to describe the formation of separate mountain ranges: for example Carpathean orogeny for the Carpathians, Hellenic orogeny for the Hellenides or the Himalayan orogeny for the Himalayas.

The Alpine orogeny also led to the formation of more distant but smaller geological features such as the Weald-Artois Anticline in Southern England and Northern France, the remains of which can be seen in the chalk ridges of the North and South Downs in southern England. Its effects are particularly visible on the Isle of Wight, where the Chalk Group and overlying Eocene strata are folded to near-vertical, as seen in exposures at Alum Bay and Whitecliff Bay, and on the Dorset coast near Lulworth Cove.

The Alpine orogeny occurred when the continents Africa and India and the small Cimmerian plate collided (from the south) with Eurasia in the north. Convergent movements between the tectonic plates (the Indian plate and the African plate from the south, the Eurasian plate from the north, and many smaller plates and microplates) began already in the early Cretaceous, but the major phases of mountain building began in the Paleocene to Eocene. Currently the process still continues in some of the Alpide mountain ranges.

The Alpine orogeny is considered one of the three major phases of orogeny in Europe that define the geology of that continent, along with the Caledonian orogeny that formed the Old Red Sandstone Continent when the continents Baltica and Laurentia collided in the early Paleozoic, and the Hercynian or Variscan orogeny that formed Pangaea when Gondwana and the Old Red Sandstone Continent collided in the middle to late Paleozoic.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Moores, E.M., Fairbridge, R.W. (Editors), 1998: Encyclopedia of European and Asian Regional Geology. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series, London, 825 pp.