Upper-plate deformation during collisional orogeny: a case study from the German Variscides (Saxo-Thuringian Zone)
Published:January 01, 2000
Frauke Schäfer, Onno Oncken, Helga Kemnitz, Rolf L. Romer, 2000. "Upper-plate deformation during collisional orogeny: a case study from the German Variscides (Saxo-Thuringian Zone)", Orogenic Processes: Quantification and Modelling in the Variscan Belt, Wolfgang Franke, Volker Haak, Onno Oncken, David Tanner
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A doubly vergent orogenic wedge system within the Central European Variscides developed during Carboniferous collision of two continental fragments, the northwestern edge of the Saxo-Thuringian upper plate and the Rheno-Hercynian passive margin in the lower plate. The resulting thrust system in the upper plate above the SE-dipping subduction zone retains the memory of the mode of deformation partitioning and material flow pattern in its internal architecture, its kinematic, metamorphic and geochronological record, and its reflection seismic image. New data indicate a stepwise SE-ward progradation of the NW Saxo-Thuringian fold belt with two stages of shortening between about 340 and 335 and between 320 and 310 Ma above a NW-dipping basal detachment. The NW Saxo-Thuringian fold belt is reinterpreted as a retro-wedge that was kinematically coupled to the Rheno-Hercynian pro-wedge and subduction system. The two steps in retro-wedge growth are linked to (a) the onset of collision with the Rheno-Hercynian margin causing upper-plate uplift and (b) a widespread late-orogenic stage of wedge thickening. The retro-wedge accumulated mostly diffuse shortening of > 100 km versus the shortening by imbrication of 180–200 km in the Rheno-Hercynian lower plate. Material advection and orogenic architecture were strongly affected by asymmetric erosional removal towards the lower-plate foreland and by transient mechanical properties of the wedge system.
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Orogenic Processes: Quantification and Modelling in the Variscan Belt
Research into the orogenic processes that shaped the continental crust of Europe has a long-standing tradition. Why the need to quantify and model? It is not just satisfactory to identify subduction zones, accretionary prisms, island arcs, extensional collapse and other standard items of the geodynamic menu. Such interpretations need to be quantified: extent and composition of subducted crust, angle and speed of subduction, amount and composition olmelts produced, heat sources for metamorphism. All such interpretations have to conform to first principles, and also to stand the test of quantitative balancing – a concept first developed for the conservation of length or volume in tectonic cross sections. Also in other fields, the correlation of causes and effects and the internal consistency of dynamic models requires a numerical approach.
The present volume combines review articles with reports on recent progress in an attempt to address these aims. There is a foldout map of the region, which locates the main areas of outcrop and tectono-stratigraphic units, and a reassesment of the Palaeozoic time scale permits correlation of tectonic, metamorphic and magmatic events with the sedimentary record of the upper crust.