Geology Plate Tectonics and Bedrock Responses Essay

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Geology

Plate Tectonics and Bedrock Responses: The Formation of Unconformities, Stress, Strains, Faults, and Joints

Plate tectonics is a relatively recent explanation for many -- arguably most -- of the Earth's geological features. The convergence of two plates of the Earth's crust can cause the thrusting up of mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas and many others, and can also or alternatively result in subduction zones and heavily increased volcanic activity. Where plates diverge, generally in ocean floors, great canyons and more volcanic activity can appear as the molten rock of the underlying mantle bubbles up to produce new crustal material. In addition to these large-scale geological features, more minute -- in geological terms -- changes are also produced by the movements of the tectonic plates, creating an abundance of details in the physical geology in the bedrock of any given area that provide clues as to the progression of geological events and the movements of tectonic plates over the course of the Earth's existence.

Stress and Strain

A basic definition of terms is necessary to understand the ways in which the forces of plate tectonics create the observable geological features identified above and the many others that exist. Stress, as used in geology, refers to the force(s) applied to an object or geological feature/area; in the context of the scope of this paper, it refers to the various forces arising out of and/or causing the movement of the tectonic plates as they act on bedrock (Dutch 1999). Though pressure is actually a unique type of stress, it is a useful general term for understanding stress.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Geology Plate Tectonics and Bedrock Responses: The Assignment

While stress refers to the actual forces affecting certain geological elements, strain basically refers to the effects of these forces (Dutch 1999). That is, measurements and expressions of strain denote the degree to which a geological feature or area -- in this context, again, the bedrock of a particular area -- is affected, shaped, and warped by the stress to which it is subjected. The same types and levels of stress can yield very different strains depending on the material upon which the stress is acting, as well as numerous other factors (Dutch 1999). Though the terms stress and strain are very closely related, then, it is important tor recognize the distinctions and differences that exist between these two terms -- the former is a description of force itself, while the latter is a description of a force's effects (Dutch 1999).

Joints and Faults

Just as stress and strain are very closely related yet distinct terms, the terms joint and fault refer to highly similar yet fundamentally geological features. Both joints and faults are the result of stress, and shows signs of strain; they are fractures that occur in the Earth's crust due to the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates (ISU 2010). There are several different kinds of stress that can produce fractures, and this can in large part affect the eventual outcome of the geological forces -- whether the fracture will become a joint or develop into a fault. A joint is essentially a fracture in the Earth's crust along which no movement has occurred, but that remains static after the occurrence of the fraction (ISU 2010). Joints are typically caused by tensional forces, which acts to lengthen or stretch objects (ISU 2010; Dutch 1999).

Faults often begin as joints, but become faults when movement occurs between the sides of the fractured crustal material (ISU 2010). A variety of different stresses can produce faults; tensional stress can result in faulting, as can compression -- stress that acts to shorten or condense an object -- and shear stress, which affects objects laterally (ISU 2010; Dutch 1999). A shear fault is perhaps the easiest to picture -- one side of the fractured structural material will move in a direction following the fault, e.g. north or south if the fault runs in these directions, while the other side remains still or, less commonly, moves in the opposite direction. Compression stress can also result in lateral strain -- that is, movement along the fault line -- and both compression and tension can result in upward lifts or downward… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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