Geology of Switzerland

Switzerland is in the center of the orogen called Alps. Two plates, the European and the African plate collide, both are continental and thus mountains are formed by the collision. The continental crust is thickened, going much deeper but only a little higher than normal. The reason for the latter is the erosion, which works continually to transport material from the mountains to the sea. The result is light material being too low and as a result it is uplifted by its m buoyancy. The rate of uplift for the Swiss Alps is about 10-15 cm in 100 years, an enormous amount for a geologic process. This is the reason for the continual erosion and the high mountain relief, as soon as this uplift ends, the mountains will be eroded away and soon there will be hill country instead.

The most typical feature of Alpine geology are nappes. This are layers of rocks, which were moved for dozens or hundreds of kilometers. Rigid layers of limestone gliding on softer layers of sandstone or marl. But they were not unharmed, they were cracked, folded a tilted. Typical results are the surrounding hill countries, like the Jura. As the sedimentary cover moved to the north and southe, the center became uncovered. It was continually uplifted, so there is no gap, but the rocks are for a deeper location in the crust, containing metamorphites, intrusions like granites and other crystallines, and numerous ore deposits. So as a result Switzerland has two rims of limestone mountains in the north and the south, most important is the Siebenhengste area with caves extending over 1,500 m in vertical range. In the center is a crystalline core without caves, but with numerous mines and a wealth of extraordinary minerals. Famous are the Bergkristalle (rock crystals), which are locally called Strahlen (rays), and the profession of the Strahler, who earns his living by collecting and selling rock crystals.