Friday, July 25, 2014

Dear Brutus

Of the "geo" studies, I guess I find geography the more accessible. Once, when I was in college, I caught a ride from upstate New York down to Washington with a couple of geology majors. Oy! You should have heard those guys all the way down I-81 through Pennsylvania where the road has been blasted out of the Appalachian Mountains. It was like they were speaking a different language; they were all Shawgunk this, and orogeny that. I still have no idea what they were saying.

Even so, when I was flying across the country this week, certain geographical features made me curious about the geological forces that formed them. The plains are so flat; the Badlands so sculpted; some rivers are super bendy; some mountains look sheer and stony, but others look folded and crinkly. What makes them that way? If only geologists spoke my language, or I theirs.

I understand how the mountains of Maine were carved by glaciers, but San Francisco and Marin County are hills and mountains that seem to rise directly out of the sea, a phenomena that couldn't be more different than the wide beaches and wetlands we have here on the east coast. After spending a couple of days in northern California, it occurred to me to look it up, and I found that I actually do know how they were formed.

Sometime between 24 and 34 million years ago two tectonic plates collided and pushed those mountains right up. That plate boundary is still there today; we know it as the San Andreas Fault.

Perhaps there's hope for me, yet.

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