GPS network monitors the Western Alps' deformation over a five-year period: 1993-1998

C. Vigny, J. Chéry, T. Duquesnoy, F. Jouanne, J. Ammann, M. Anzidei, J. P. Avouac, F. Barlier, R. Bayer, P. Briole, E. Calais, F. Cotton, F. Duquenne, K. L. Feigl, G. Ferhat, M. Flouzat, J. F. Gamond, A. Geiger, A. Harmel, M. KasserM. Laplanche, M. Le Pape, J. Martinod, G. Ménard, B. Meyer, J. C. Ruegg, J. M. Scheubel, O. Scotti, G. Vidal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The Western Alps are among the best studied collisional belts with both detailed structural mapping and also crustal geophysical investigations such as the ECORS and EGT seismic profile. By contrast, the present-day kinematics of the belt is still largely unknown due to small relative motions and the insufficient accuracy of the triangulation data. As a consequence, several tectonic problems still remain to be solved, such as the amount of N-S convergence in the Occidental Alps, the repartition of the deformation between the Alpine tectonic units, and the relation between deformation and rotation across the Alpine arc. In order to address these problems, the GPS ALPES group, made up of French, Swiss and Italian research organizations, has achieved the first large-scale GPS surveys of the Western Alps. More than 60 sites were surveyed in 1993 and 1998 with a minimum observation of 3 days at each site. GPS data processing has been done by three independent teams using different software. The different solutions have horizontal repeatabilities (N-E) of 4-7 mm in 1993 and 2-3 mm in 1998 and compare at the 3-5 mm level in position and 2-mm/ yr level in velocity. A comparison of 1993 and 1998 coordinates shows that residual velocities of the GPS marks are generally smaller than 2 mm/yr, precluding a detailed tectonic interpretation of the differential motions. However, these data seem to suggest that the N-S compression of the Western Alps is quite mild (less than 2 mm/yr) compared to the global convergence between the African and Eurasian plate (6 mm/yr). This implies that the shortening must be accomodated elsewhere by the deformation of the Maghrebids and/ or by rotations of Mediterranean microplates. Also, E-W velocity components analysis supports the idea that E-W extension exists, as already suggested by recent structural and seismotectonic data interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jan 2002


  • GPS
  • Tectonics


Dive into the research topics of 'GPS network monitors the Western Alps' deformation over a five-year period: 1993-1998'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this