EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Overdeepenings modelled with gravimetry-based data

Dimitri Bandou1, Patrick Schläfli1, Michael Schwenk1, Guilhem Douillet1, Edi Kissling2, and Fritz Schlunegger1
Dimitri Bandou et al.
  • 1University of Bern, Institut für Geologie, Bern, Switzerland (
  • 2Institut für Geophysik, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

The processes and mechanisms resulting in overdeepenings, valleys carved deeper than today’s rivers base level during glaciations, are still a matter of debate. Whether or not these valleys formation is due to glacial or fluvio-glacial processes or through fluvial down cutting in the geological past is difficult to affirm, as the depressions are filled with sediment or host lakes (Cook and Swift, 2012). In order to bypass this limitation, we use precise gravimetric data, GNSS data and borehole data, which we combine within a 3D forward modelling code, Gravi3D. We particularly aim at reconstructing the geometry of overdeepened valleys’ walls, which bear information on the erosional mechanism leading to the formation of these troughs. We proceed through the building of models for a given geometry to reproduce the Bouguer gravity that we measured in the field along sections and on a grid of stations. We constrain our models by using precise density values, determined by gravimetry, along with borehole data.

We apply this technique to overdeepenings located in the Alpine foreland (Belpberg area, Central Switzerland) because this area hosts multiple overdeepenings from the past glaciations. The region is characterized by three hill ranges made up of Molasse bedrock with c. 300 m-deep and c. 1 km-wide valleys in-between, where overdeepenings with a Quaternary infill are expected. The results of gravity data collection, accomplished over a section with stations spaced between 100 and 300 m and after standard corrections yield a Bouguer anomaly for the Belpberg region that ranges from c. -99 to -106 mgal. We infer this large range to the regional trend (c. 2 mgal over 8 km) and to the effect of the overdeepening infill (2-4 mgal over 1 km), disclosing a sharp anomaly pattern over the inferred overdeeping. The subsequent three steps include: (i) the removal of the regional trend, (ii) the use of the Nettleton method for the quantification of an accurate density contrast between the Molasse bedrock and the Quaternary infill, and (iii) the configuration of Gravi3D for the Belpberg situation, will yield further information on the morphology of the overdeeping. We thus conclude that Gravi3D, within this framework, is a useful tool to determine the geometry of overdeepings in particular, and shallow subsurface bodies and structures in general.


Cook, S.J., Swift, D.A., 2012. Subglacial basins: Their origin and importance in glacial systems and landscapes. Earth-Science Reviews 115, 332–372.

How to cite: Bandou, D., Schläfli, P., Schwenk, M., Douillet, G., Kissling, E., and Schlunegger, F.: Overdeepenings modelled with gravimetry-based data, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-15807,, 2020.


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