Carbonate Petrography

Carbonate petrography is the study of limestones, dolomites and associated deposits under optical or electron microscopes greatly enhances field studies or core observations and can provide a frame of reference for geochemical studies.

25 strangest Geologic Formations on Earth

The strangest formations on Earth.

What causes Earthquake?

Of these various reasons, faulting related to plate movements is by far the most significant. In other words, most earthquakes are due to slip on faults.

The Geologic Column

As stated earlier, no one locality on Earth provides a complete record of our planet’s history, because stratigraphic columns can contain unconformities. But by correlating rocks from locality to locality at millions of places around the world, geologists have pieced together a composite stratigraphic column, called the geologic column, that represents the entirety of Earth history.

Folds and Foliations

Geometry of Folds Imagine a carpet lying flat on the floor. Push on one end of the carpet, and it will wrinkle or contort into a series of wavelike curves. Stresses developed during mountain building can similarly warp or bend bedding and foliation (or other planar features) in rock. The result a curve in the shape of a rock layer is called a fold.

Showing posts with label orogeny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orogeny. Show all posts

Basins and Domes in Cratons

Basins and Domes in Cratons 

North America’s craton consists of a shield, where Precambrian rock is exposed, and a platform, where Paleozoic sedimentary rock covers the Precambrian.
A craton consists of crust that has not been affected by orogeny for at least about the last 1 billion years. As a result, cratons have cooled substantially, and therefore have become relatively strong and stable. Geologists divide cratons into two provinces: shields, in which Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks crop out at the ground surface, and cratonic platforms, where a relatively thin layer of Phanerozoic sediment covers the Precambrian rocks (figure above).

Mountain Topography

Mountain Topography 

Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance artist and scientist, enjoyed walking in the mountains, sketching ledges and examining the rocks he found there. In the process, he discovered marine shells (fossils) in limestone beds cropping out a kilometre above sea level, and he suggested that the rock containing the fossils had risen from below sea level up to its present elevation. Modern geologists agree with Leonardo, and they now refer to processes causing the surface of the Earth to move vertically from a lower to a higher elevation as uplift. In this section, we look at why uplift occurs, how erosion carves rugged landscapes out of uplifted crust, and why Earth’s mountains can’t get much higher than Mt. Everest.

Mountain Building

Mountain Building

Before plate tectonics theory became established, geologists were just plain confused about how mountains formed. In the context of the new theory, however, the many processes driving mountain building became clear: mountains form primarily in response to convergent-boundary deformation, continental collisions, and rifting. Since collision zones, rifts, and plate boundaries are linear, mountain belts are linear. Below, we look at these different settings and the types of mountains and geologic structures that develop in each one.

How do mountains build?

Plate moves around the Earth's surface which exerts powerful lateral forces on rocks. The response of the crust to those forces gives rise to deformation on a large scale, particularly along plate boundaries. For example, dozens or hundreds of large-scale faults can form in zones of plate convergence, resulting in a broad and high mountain belt. The geologic processes that can result in mountain building.
  • Crustal shortening/thickening in response to convergence of a subducting plate.
  • Continental collision.
  • Uplift of sediments accreted by subduction.
  • Volcanism.
  • "Corner" accretion/uplift due to along-trench rafting of terrain.
  • Heating or cooling of lithosphere by the underlying mantle (and hence uplift or subsidence).
  • Crustal extension.
Geometrically, if two plates are colliding, they can respond as follows:
  • One plate can subduct into the mantle.
  • One or both plates can undergo shortening and hence uplift and crustal thickening.
  • One or both plates can undergo lateral extrusion (i.e. part of the plate escapes the collision zone by extruding sideways).
Let's consider the first two cases.
Suppose an oceanic plate converges with a continental plate. The oceanic plate, being more dense, subducts into the mantle. If all convergence (100%) is accommodated by subduction, the overlying continent will remain undeformed and should undergo no net uplift (although topography will undoubtedly develop as arc volcanoes appear). Suppose that not all convergence is accommodated by subduction and a few percent of the convergence instead causes the upper plate to shorten. How much uplift is implied?

For 100 millimetres per year of convergence (a typical plate velocity), if 5% is accommodated by long-term shortening of the overlying plate, then the overlying plate will shorten at a rate of roughly 5 millimetres per year.


Geometrically, the 5 mm/yr of horizontal shortening translates into vertical motion as shown above, with the only dependence being on the dip of the fault along which the continent is shortening. For low angle faults (10 degrees), uplift will occur at rates of about 1 mm/yr (1 kilometre per million years). Over 5 million years, this amounts to uplift of 5 kilometres or 3 miles (15,900 feet). Over the same period, the two plates will have converged some 5 million years x 100 kilometres per million years or 500 km. The total uplift then is only a small percentage, 1%, of the total horizontal motion.

Continent-continent collisions are not usually accompanied by subduction because both plates are too buoyant to be thrust deeply into the mantle. The amount of crustal thickening and uplift in such a collision can thus be much greater than for an ocean-continent collision. For example, over the past 40 million years, continental India has driven northward into continental Eurasia across the Himalayas mountain belt at a rate of about 40-50 millimetres per year. If you work it out, this implies that the two plates have somehow shortened by more than 1500 kilometres (about 900 miles) across the Himalayas. Since subduction is not occurring, the shortening has been accommodated by mountain building and lateral escape.

Factors that complicate calculations of total uplift

Plate convergence of hundreds or even a thousand kilometres or more over millions of years might be accompanied by only several kilometres of uplift. This uplift, while spectacular to the eye, is merely a small part of the displacement "budget", which is largely dominated by horizontal motion.

Many important aspects of mountain building are ignored and thus cannot predict total topography given total horizontal motion.

Why is this the case?. It is because of the following:

  • Fault dips are rarely well known and faults are often curved, with their dips increasing toward the surface.
  • Erosion/mass wasting removes material from the upper reaches of uplifting regions, sometimes nearly as quickly as the region is going up!
  • Vertical uplift must fight the downward pull of gravity. In extreme cases, no amount of horizontal convergence is capable of causing further uplift.
  • Crustal uplift often coincides with subsidence through a process called isostatic adjustment. This is analogous to climbing into a boat, which sinks lower into the water once your weight is added to that of the boat. Your net height above the water surface is equal to your height on land minus the amount the boat sinks. Continents similarly sink into the underlying mantle when substantial topographic loads are added to their surface.
  • Lateral escape of crust sometimes accommodates a significant fraction of plate convergence, leaving less available for inducing vertical uplift.
  • Uplift can occur simultaneously or sequentially along many faults that exist in a broad zone of deformation between two converging plates. Relating the total horizontal convergence to the total uplift caused by the convergence then requires measurements across many faults.