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Rewording: Shedding Light on the Elaborate Geologic Composition Underlying the European Alps


Photo of a snow covered mountain

The Editors’ Highlights provide brief overviews of recent articles selected by AGU’s journal editors.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

The current formation of the European Alps is a result of the convergence and collision of multiple plates and micro-plates. In order to gain a better understanding of the complex dynamics of this region, Link and Rümpker [2023] conducted a thorough examination of seismic anisotropy throughout the area. Anisotropy is caused by the arrangement of minerals due to dynamic processes in the earth’s crust and mantle, and can be observed as a change in the speed of seismic waves depending on their direction. This can be measured by analyzing the splitting of shear waves recorded by seismographs on the surface.

The researchers gathered data on shear-wave splitting from nearly 600 seismographs placed throughout the entire European Alps region, with an average distance of less than 30 kilometers between stations. This extensive dataset allows for a thorough analysis that not only reveals the nuances of anisotropy variations across the region, but also the changes in depth which can be challenging to identify. The authors deduce distinct layering, demonstrating the roles of both tectonic deformation within the plate and active mantle flow beneath. These findings are significant in furthering our comprehension of the intricate history of the Alpine collision and the dynamics of the surrounding Mediterranean area.

The article “Shear-wave splitting uncovers layered-anisotropy beneath the European Alps due to Mediterranean subduction” by Link and Rümpker (2023) in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (128, e2023JB027192) discusses the discovery of anisotropy in the European Alps caused by subduction in the Mediterranean region. The authors used shear-wave splitting to reveal these layers.

—Fiona Darbyshire, Associate Editor, JGR: Solid Earth

Text © 2023. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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