Caves Hold Clues to Swiss Alp Landscape

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Caves Hold Clues to Swiss Alp Landscape

Postby Cheryl Jones » Feb 3, 2007 9:18 pm

From February Geology and GSA Today media highlights

Abrupt glacial valley incision at 0.8 Ma dated from cave deposits in Switzerland
Philipp Haeuselmann, University of Applied Life Sciences, Institute for Applied Geology, Vienna 1190, Austria; et al. Pages 143-146.

To the human eye, the landscape of the Alps seems to be eternal. However, like every feature on Earth, it evolves continuously. Mountaintops grow, valleys are deepened, and glaciations erode the rocks.

However, the pace at which such processes take place is difficult to determine, because erosion tends to leave no marks that can be dated.

Caves, fortunately, offer unique insight into geological processes because of several advantages. First, they are generated relatively rapidly, so that variations in valley deepenings are seen in cave levels. Second, the rapidity of their evolution leaves old sediments behind. These sediments can be dated by various methods. Combination of cave morphology, sediment sequences, and dating helps to decipher the evolution of today’s landscape.

Haeuselmann et al. used this approach in the Swiss Siebenhengste area, where extensive caves are found. Two dating methods, using in both cases radiogenic decay of nuclides, enabled Haeuselmann et al. to retrace the landscape evolution from 4.5 million years ago to the present.

Additionally, the velocity of valley deepening could be calculated, as well as erosion of the surface above the cave system. Obtaining such data is not possible without caves. ... 012607.php
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