Monday, October 12, 2020

Random Geology Pic - Grand Canyon National Park from the Air

Like the recent Dinosaur National Monument pic I posted earlier, I seem lucky enough to catch some of America's best National Parks while flying overhead. Here are a few of Grand Canyon National Park. The flight was from Salt Lake City to Phoenix back in October of 2016, which happened to perfectly line up with the Grand Canyon. I highlighted the Grand Canyon in my Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures a little while ago. 

Aerial view of the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is a massive erosional feature formed through the movement of the Earth's crust known as Plate Tectonics. Here, we are mainly focused on the interaction of the North American plate and the Farallon plate. 

Subduction of the Farallon Plate below North America. Image courtesy of the NPS.

Off the west coast of North America used to be a plate called the Farallon Plate. It was being subducted (going beneath) North America for several millions of years until the majority of the plate had been completely subducted. This recently subducted plate was rather hot and therefore pushed upwards on the overriding North American Plate. 

The Farallon Plate below North America. Image courtesy of Written in Stone

As the Farallon Plate traveled below North America, the upward force of the hot plate pushed up a section of North America known as the Colorado Plateau. Surface features, such as rivers, are then locked in place as the ground surface moves upwards, the rivers start to erode more and more downwards. This creates features such as the Grand Canyon and things called "entrenched meanders" where formerly meandering rivers are locked into place as they are now eroding downwards in that meander shape. 

An entrenched meander of the Colorado River

The Colorado Plateau has several entrenched meanders, besides just the one in the image above including at Natural Bridges National Monument, which I covered a little while ago.

View of the Grand Canyon.

As erosion within the canyon deepened, it also widened. This created one of the largest canyons on Earth seen here at the Grand Canyon. Although one of the largest canyons on Earth, the Grand Canyon is not THE largest. There are several larger canyons, specifically in areas where similar processes are occurring by the significant uplift of the ground surface, such as along the Himalayan Mountains. 

More far off view of the Grand Canyon.

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