In the Miocene, the European Eastern Alps extruded laterally along orogen-scale strike-slip faults due to both extensional gravitational collapse and compressional tectonic forcing. Horizontal extension is most prominently evidenced by detachments east and west of the Tauern Window; it is commonly explained by a retreating slab beneath the Carpathian arc hundreds of kilometers east of the orogen. Horizontal compression is shown by north-south shortening in the Tauern Window and the entire Eastern Alps in response to the convergence of the Adriatic plate with Europe. It is interesting that analogue and numerical models for the Eastern Alps designed to describe the east-directed lateral extrusion have failed to explain the extensional regime in the region of the Tauern Window. Using a numerical model for plan-view deformation that considers internal faults, we show here that orogen-scale strike-slip faults are mechanically required to cause extension during plate convergence in the Miocene Eastern Alps. We test the idea by coupling this model with a landscape evolution model and by comparing modeled and observed drainage system geometries.

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