Inherited structural controls on fault geometry, architecture and hydrothermal activity: an example from Grimsel Pass, Switzerland

Belgrano, Thomas M.; Herwegh, Marco; Berger, Alfons (2016). Inherited structural controls on fault geometry, architecture and hydrothermal activity: an example from Grimsel Pass, Switzerland. Swiss journal of geosciences, 109(3), pp. 345-364. Birkhäuser 10.1007/s00015-016-0212-9

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Exhumed faults hosting hydrothermal systems provide direct insight into relationships between faulting and fluid flow, which in turn are valuable for making hydrogeological predictions in blind settings. The Grimsel Breccia Fault (Aar massif, Central Swiss Alps) is a late Neogene, exhumed dextral strike-slip fault with a maximum displacement of 25–45 m, and is associated with both fossil and active hydrothermal circulation. We mapped the fault system and modelled it in three dimensions, using the distinctive hydrothermal mineralisation as well as active thermal fluid discharge (the highest elevation documented in the Alps) to reveal the structural controls on fluid pathway extent and morphology. With progressive uplift and cooling, brittle deformation inherited the mylonitic
shear zone network at Grimsel Pass; preconditioning fault geometry into segmented brittle reactivations of ductile shear zones and brittle inter-shear zone linkages. We describe ‘pipe’-like, vertically oriented fluid pathways: (1) within brittle fault linkage zones and (2) through alongstrike- restricted segments of formerly ductile shear zones reactivated by brittle deformation. In both cases, low-permeability mylonitic shear zones that escaped brittle reactivation
provide important hydraulic seals. These observations show that fluid flow along brittle fault planes is not planar, but rather highly channelised into sub-vertical
flow domains, with important implications for the exploration and exploitation of geothermal energy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Herwegh, Marco and Berger, Alfons


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Marco Herwegh

Date Deposited:

21 Jun 2016 11:17

Last Modified:

15 Jan 2017 02:07

Publisher DOI:





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