The Tectonics Group is interested in the physical processes that underlie the evolution of tectonic plate margins and of the dynamics of plate motion. We study the structure and motion history of Earth’s lithosphere from the surface down to the mantle in order to understand how mountains and basins form, and why plate motion localizes along faults. This motion varies with time, from slow and steady creep over periods of thousands and millions of years, to fast and unpredictable earthquakes over time spans of minutes to seconds. To assess such transient motion, we use sedimentary, metamorphic, thermochronological and geodetic methods (below) to probe deep Earth time.
* co-supervised with Prof. Dr. Timm John (Mineralogy, FU-Berlin)
We are currently pursuing research in three broad themes:
Investigation of the exhumation mechanisms of the axial core of a collisional orogen, by means of structural analysis of brittle deformation and of thermochronology in the Eastern Alps (DFG, Rosenberg, Handy, Garcia
Relationship of the Andean orogeny to uplift of the Altiplano Plateau (Chile, Bolivia, Argentina) (DFG-SFB, Handy, Scheuber, Medvedev)
Fault Systems in Front of the Apulian Orogenic Indenter and their Role in Exhuming High Pressure Rocks in the Sesia Zone, Western Alpine Arc (DFG, Handy, Hammerschmidt, Oberhänsli, Rosenberg)
Exhumation Mechanisms of Middle and Lower Crust In the Eastern Alps (DFG, Rosenberg, Hammerschmidt, Handy)
Melt segregation and migration in ductile shear zones (DFG, Rosenberg, Handy)
Ascent and emplacement of granitic melts in the Earth’s crust (DFG, Rosenberg, Handy)
Migration of pressurized fluids along shear zones in deep continental crust (DFG, Handy, Rosenberg)
Oligo-miozäne Tektonik nördlich des Dolomitenindenters und ihre Beziehung zur Platznahme des Rieserferner Plutons (DFG, Handy, Rosenberg)
We study Earth’s changing structure and surface on all scales. To do this, we employ a combination of methods, from the analysis of rock structures in the field, to microstructural and thermochronological studies of minerals in the laboratory, to mapping of large-scale structures with remote-sensing techniques. This is complemented by deformation experiments on rock-analogue materials and numerical modelling studies with computers. Our work is carried out in so-called “natural laboratories”, that is, in areas where previous studies provide a broad scientific context for the detailed study of the themes above. A key aspect of our work is using specialized methods to image Earth’s deep structure and to reconstruct past tectonic events. We therefore depend on close collaboration with specialists in other fields of the earth and natural sciences, for example in isotope geochemistry and thermochronology (for dating rocks and minerals), sedimentology and biostratigraphy (for dating sedimentary structures at Earth’s surface), metamorphic and magmatic petrology (for determining the physical conditions of mineralization at depth) and seismology (for imaging structures deep within Earth, especially in the mantle). We have expanding our laboratory facilities to conduct fission track dating of zircon and apatite, partly in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Potsdam and the GFZ Potsdam.
Favaro, S., Handy, M.R., Scharf, A., Schuster, R. (2017): Changing patterns of exhumation and denudation in front of an advancing crustal indenter, Tauern Window (Eastern Alps). Tectonics 36,1053-1071, doi: 10.1002/2016TC004448
Le Breton, E., Handy, M.R., Molli, G., Ustaszewski, K. (2017): Post-20 Ma motion of the Adriatic plate – new constraints from surrounding orogens and implications for crust-mantle decoupling. Tectonics, in press
Handy, M.R., Ustaszewski, K., Kissling, E. (2015): Reconstructing the Alps–Carpathians–Dinarides as a key to understanding switches in subduction polarity, slab gaps and surface motion. International Journal of Earth Sciences. 104, 1, 1-26,DOI: 10.1007/s00531-014-1060-3
Pleuger, J. & Podladchikov, Y.Y. (2014): A purely structural restoration of the NFP20-East cross section and potential tectonic overpressure in the Adula nappe (Central Alps). Tectonics, 33(5), 656-685, doi: 10.1002/2013TC003409.
Scharf, A., Handy, M.R., Ziemann, M.A., Schmid, S.M. (2013): Peak-temperature patterns of polyphase metamorphism resulting from accretion, subduction and collision (eastern Tauern Window, European Alps) – a study with Raman microspectroscopy on carbonaceous material (RSCM), Journal of metamorphic Geology, 31(8), 863-880, DOI 10.1111/jmg.12048
Scharf, A., Handy, M.R., Favaro, S., Schmid, S. M., Bertrand, A. (2013): Modes of orogen-parallel stretching and extensional exhumation in response to microplate indentation and roll-back subduction (Tauern Window, Eastern Alps), International Journal of Earth Sciences (Geol Rundsch), 102(6), 1627-1654, DOI 10.1007/s00531-013-0894-4
Le Breton E., Cobbold, P.R., Zanella, A., 2013. Cenozoic reactivation of the Great Glen Fault, Scotland: Additional Evidence and Possible Causes. Journal of the Geological Society, London, Vol. 170, pp. 403-415.doi: 10.1144/jgs2012-067.
Le Breton E., Cobbold, P.R., Dauteuil O. and Lewis G., 2012. Variation in amount and direction of sea-floor spreading along the North East Atlantic Ocean and resulting deformation of the continental margin of North West Europe. Tectonics, 31, TC5006, doi:10.1029/2011TC003087
Giese, J., Seward, D and Schreurs, G. (2012): Low-temperature evolution of the Morondava rift basin shoulder in western Madagascar: An apatite fission track study. Tectonics, 31, TC2009, doi:10.1029/2011TC002921.
Georgiev, N., Pleuger, J., Froitzheim, N., Sarov, S., Jahn-Awe, S. & Nagel, T.J. (2010): Separate Eocene-Early Oligocene and Miocene stages of extension and core complex formation in the Western Rhodopes, Mesta Basin, and Pirin Mountains (Bulgaria). Tectonophysics, 487, 59-84.
Giese, J., Seward, D., Stuart, F.M., Wüthrich, E., Gnos, E., Kurz, D., Eggenberger, U., Schreurs, G. (2010). Electrodynamic disaggregation: Does it affect apatite fission-track and (U-Th)/He analyses? Geostand. Geoanal. Res., 34, 39-48, DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-908X.2009.00013.x
Handy, M.R., Schmid, S.M., Bousquet, R., Kissling, E., Bernoulli, D. (2010): Reconciling plate-tectonic reconstructions with the geological-geophysical record of spreading and subduction in the Alps. Earth Science Reviews, 102, 121-158.
Handy, M.R., Hirth, G. and R. Bürgmann (2007): Fault Structure and Rheology from the Frictional-Viscous Transition Downward. pp. 139-181 in: Tectonic Faults – Agents of Change on a Dynamic Earth, edited by M.R. Handy, G. Hirth, N. Hovius, Dahlem Workshop Report 95, 504 pp., The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., USA
Fusseis, F. and Handy, M.R. (2008): Micromechanisms of shear zone propagation at the brittle to viscous transition, Journal of Structural Geology, doi :10.1016/j.jsg.2008.06.005
Schrank, C.E., Handy, M.R. and F. Fusseis (2008): Multi-scaling of shear zones and the evolution of the brittle-to-viscous transition in continental crust, Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, B01407, doi:10.1029/2006JB004833.
*obligatory /elective courses for students in the MSc program “Geodynamics & Geomaterials” and wishing to work in the Tectonics and Sedimentology groups. Other listed courses are required for all BSc and MSc students of Geological Science
BSc Program (in German)
MSc Program (in Englisch)