Halka Chronic (1923–2013)

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Inkluderar namnet: Haika Chronic


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My adopted home state's entry in the popular Roadside Geology series. Now seemed like a good time to read this, as I spent the weekend doing a little New Mexico road tripping (down to the very geologically interesting White Sands National Park).

This book has an extremely difficult balancing act to pull off – or, really, several of them at once. It's trying to be completely accessible to people with no knowledge of geology at all, while still appealing to those with an amateur interest. It's trying to provide a sense of the general geology of the state while mostly limiting itself to features visible from the highways and discernible at highway speeds. And it has to discuss long and sometimes diverse stretches of highway in just a few pages.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't succeed perfectly at all of this. There was a moment or two when my geologically ignorant self was a little confused by some bit of terminology that no doubt seemed extremely obvious to the author (enough so that it didn't even appear in the glossary). In some places, I found the text a bit boring or repetitive, and in others I found it interesting enough that I was frustrated that there wasn't more on a particular topic or place.

But, overall, it does pretty much what it's aiming to do: pointing out the features of the landscape that you might pass by in your car and telling you a little bit about what they're made of, how old they are, and how they formed. And it was very, very cool for me to have even a few paragraphs telling me about the place where I live and the mountain I can see outside my living room window.

It also enlightened me about some fascinating aspects of New Mexico geography as a whole. I knew there had been volcanism here – there are places where that's extremely obvious – but I had no idea it was so extensive, or that some of it was so recent. I also didn't realize that I was living on top of a rift in the continent, where the Earth's crust is trying to pull itself apart in a way that might one day result in the entire Rio Grande valley becoming an inlet for the sea. Honestly, I think this book would probably be worthwhile for me just for illuminating me about that.

One word of caution, though: this was originally published in 1987, and I've spotted a few places where I know it's out of date, e.g. a massively low underestimate for the age of the universe in the introductory chapter, and a now-resolved uncertainly about what it was that ended the reign of the dinosaurs. No doubt there are more examples that I'm unaware of, both in the science and the details of the human landscape. But at least we can be pretty confident the geology itself has changed very little in the intervening years.
… (mer)
bragan | 2 andra recensioner | Sep 26, 2023 |
35. Roadside Geology of Colorado (Third Edition) by Felicie Williams & Halka Chronic
published: 2014 (first edition 1980, 2nd 2002)
format: ~382-page Kindle ebook
acquired: July 15 read: Jul 15-25 time reading: 17:43, 2.8 mpp
rating: 4
genre/style: popular science theme: geology/travel
about the author: Halka Chronic: 1923-2013, an American geologist born in Tucson, AR. Felicie Williams: 1953-2015, daughter of Halka, an American geologist born in Boulder, CO.

So tragic story behind this. The authors were mother and daughter. Halka Chronic, author of the original edition (and also of Roadside Geology guides for Utah, Arizona and New Mexico) died in 2013, age 93, the year before this 3rd edition. Felicie Williams, a mine mineral mapper, died of cancer (work related?) the year after, age 62. Who will do the next edition?

But it‘s good stuff, on a very complicated place.

Colorado geological history in a not so clear nutshell:

A lot happened in Colorado from over a 400-million-year period, from 1.8 to 1.4 billion years ago. And then there is no record for 1 billion years. At the end of this lost record Colorado was flat, until around 300 million years ago (Pennsylvanian period) when the Ancestral Rockies formed. These brought deep ancient rocks to the surface, and then also weathered flat over the next 200 million years. 100 million years ago Colorado was under deep water, accumulating thick deep marine sediments. Then around 70 million years ago Laramide mountain building started working west to east across Wyoming and Colorado, bringing ancient deeply buried rocks up to the surface again, creating most of current assortment of mountain structure, but these mountains were lower than today... like 5000 ft lower. About 25 million years ago all of Colorado and the surrounding region rose up 5000 ft. Before that Colorado's many famous 14,000 ft peaks were 9000 ft peaks. At the same time a deep rift formed between most of the state of Colorado and an area called the Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Plateau is not a mountain range. Incorporating southern Utah, northern Arizona, all of the Grand Canyon, and the west edges of Colorado and New Mexico, it is largely undeformed, just high. The rift is the Rio Grande Rift. This was accompanied by a lot of volcanism (at least through 6 million years ago) that created the San Juan Mountains in western Colorado.

There is a degree of confidence in explaining the Ancestral Rocky and Laramide mountain building phases. But the late phase has no settled explanation. It's largely the kind of activity expected at the end of a tectonic plate, not in the middle.

The authors put it this way: Some geologists proposed that the volcanism was triggered as the North American plate overrode the Pacific plate and part of its midocean ridge by perhaps as much as 1200 miles. If so, friction would have melted great quantities of crustal rock, which then may have risen along old faults to build volcanoes ... Eventually, the subducted plate may have run up against the deep roots of the Rockies and been unable to push farther east, creating the huge forces that brought about regional uplift in Colorado and neighboring states. Development of the San Andreas fault in California may have relieved the pressures and brought on tension, stretching the domed-up area to the breaking point and creating the deep faults associated with the Rio Grande Rift. Those faults, reaching down to the mantle, would have allowed the escape of magma from the mantle--the basalt flows of the Late Phase of volcanism.

A far-fetched story? It may be. It fits the facts, but the facts are too few."

I read it through, mostly while in the above pictured mountains (see link below) in CO last week (and the flights there and back) and enjoyed it quite a bit. The geological maps of mountains can really undermine the desire for order and explanation. The authors do a great job of providing lots of local simplified geological maps and explanations so the reader can work out the bigger geological trends. The bad thing is those maps are not located on any reference map, so sometimes I needed Google Maps to figure out where the map was.

… (mer)
dchaikin | Jul 30, 2022 |
dgrapes | Oct 4, 2020 |
Great book to have on a driving vacation through New Mexico. I think the content was appropriate for a wide audience of people interested in geology, regardless of their technical background.
buffalogr | 2 andra recensioner | Feb 7, 2018 |

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