Abstract

Four to six years of continuous measurements at 10 permanent Global Positioning System sites in the Western Alps show horizontal residual velocities of <2 mm/yr with respect to stable Europe; uncertainties range from 0.3 to 1.4 mm/yr. These velocities and the associated strain-rate field indicate that the central part of the range is currently dominated by east-west extension, whereas the southern part shows north-south to northwest-southeast compression. The geodetic and seismotectonic data are consistent with a model where strain is essentially controlled by the counterclockwise rotation of the Adriatic microplate with respect to Eurasia. This rotation, together with the arcuate shape of the contact between the Adriatic microplate and the Alps, induces dextral shear kinematic boundary conditions across the Western Alps, with an additional divergence component in their central part and in Switzerland, and a convergence component in their southern part.

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