- A lava flow with a smooth, ropy surface.
- The science that studies the past distribution of plants and animals.
- The study of how global climate has changed through time.
- The magnetism of an iron-bearing rock imparted to it by the Earths magnetic field when the rock formed. Literally, early magnetism; meaning magnetism formed in a past geologic era.
- The study of ancient seismic (earthquake) events.
- Paleozoic Era
- Includes the time from about 570-245 million years ago.
- The study of pollen, living and fossil.
- The supercontinent which formed at the end of the Paleozoic Era and began breaking up about 200 million years ago to form todays continents.
- parent isotope
- A radioactive isotope that changes to a different, daughter isotope when its nucleus decays.
- parent rock
- The preexisting rock from which a metamorphic rock forms.
- passive margin
- A tectonically inactive continental margin characterized by a lack of earthquakes and volcanic activity.
- A bare rock surface that provides a protective rock cover over the material beneath it.
- A sloping bedrock surface at the base of a mountain, formed when erosion removes much of the mountains mass.
- Loose particles of rock or mineral (sediment) that range in size from 2 - 64 millimeters in diameter. Pebbles are the smallest type of gravel.
- A very coarse-grained igneous rock, commonly with a granitic composition. Usually forms from molten rock rich in water or other volatiles that facilitate the growth of large crystals. Forms sills and dikes.
- A fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting mostly of clay and/or silt. Mudstone, shale, siltstone, and claystone are all pelitic.
- perennial stream
- A stream that runs continuously throughout the year.
- The ability of a rock or other material to allow water to flow through its interconnected spaces. Permeable bedrock makes a good aquifer, a rock layer that yields water to wells. See porosity. (3 MB porosity animation available)
- The study of rocks.
- Lover of rocks. May be a petrologist, a stone mason, a rock climber.
- An igneous rock texture in which the mineral grains are large enough to be seen with the unaided eye and are of approximately equal size.
- Phanerozoic Eon
The eon beginning about 570 million years ago and continuing to the present. The portion of Earth history with rocks containing abundant fossils.
- A term used to describe large crystals embedded in a mass of finer crystals (groundmass) in an igneous rock. See 'porphyritic'.
- A magnesium-rich member of the mica mineral family. Phlogopite is a yellowish-brown to coppery-colored mica. Like all micas, phlogopite forms flat, plate-like crystals that cleave into smooth flakes.
- A very fine-grained, foliated metamorphic rock, generally derived from shale or fine-grained sandstone. Phyllites are usually black or dark gray; the foliation is commonly crinkled or wavy. Differs from less recrystallized slate by its sheen, which is produced by barely visible flakes of muscovite (mica).
- A member of the feldspar mineral family. Plagioclase feldspars are silicates that contain considerable sodium and calcium. Feldspar crystals are stubby prisms, generally white to gray and a glassy luster.
- Generally tiny animals or plants that live floating in water.
- plastic deformation
- Permanent deformation (change in size or shape) of soft, but solid rock by folding or flowing without fracturing.
- A slab of rigid lithosphere (crust and uppermost mantle) that moves over the asthenosphere.
- plate tectonics
- The theory that the Earths outer shell is made up of about a dozen lithospheric plates that move about and interact at their boundaries.
- Playas are shallow, short-lived lakes that form where water drains into basins with no outlet to the sea and quickly evaporates. Playas are common features in arid (desert) regions and are among the flattest landforms in the world.
- Pleistocene Epoch
- The earliest Epoch of the Quaternary Period, beginning about 1.6 million years ago and ending 10,000 years ago. Commonly known as the 'Ice Age', a time with episodes of widespread continental glaciation.
- The latest Epoch of the Tertiary Period, beginning about 5.3 million years ago and ending 1.6 million years ago.
- A large body of intrusive igneous rock that solidified within the crust. Batholiths and Stocks are types of plutons.
- plutonic rock
- Any igneous rock that cools beneath the surface. (=intrusive rock).
- pluvial lake
- A lake formed in a land-locked basin during a period of increased rainfall associated with glacial advance elsewhere.
- The percentage of open spaces (pores) in rock or soil. When these spaces are interconnected, water, air, or other fluids can migrate from space to space. Interconnected spaces make the soil or bedrock permeable.
- An igneous rock texture characterized by larger crystals (phenocrysts) in a matrix of distinctly finer crystals (groundmass).
- Large mineral grains that grow during metamorphism.
- An igneous rock, usually a dike or sill, with larger, generally conspicuous, early-formed crystals contained within a matrix of much smaller crystals.
- The 'unofficial' time period that encompasses all time from the Earths formation, 4.55 billion years ago to 570 million years ago, the beginning of the Paleozoic Era.
- precarious boulder
- A large rock resting on another in an unstable position. Precarious boulders may remain in place for thousands of years until an earthquake or human-caused tremor dislodges them.
- precipitate (verb)
- The process that separates solids from a solution.
- precipitate (noun)
- Mineral precipitate. A mineral deposited from a water solution in pores or other openings in rocks. Chemical reaction with the surrounding rock, changes in pressure or temperature, or just drying up (evaporation) can cause a mineral to precipitate out of solution. Quartz veins are common products of mineral precipitation.
- Proterozoic Eon
- The 'Precambrian' time interval from 2.5 billion to 570 million years ago.
- A light-colored, frothy, glassy volcanic rock. The texture is formed by rapidly expanding gas in erupting lava.
- Iron sulfide mineral (FeS). Forms silvery to brassy metallic cubes or masses. Common in many rocks. Known as fools gold. Weathered pyrite produces limonite (iron oxide) that stains rock brown. or yellow.
- An igneous rock texture produced from consolidation of fragmented volcanic material ejected during a violent eruption. Also used to describe ash, bombs and other material forcefully ejected during a volcanic eruption (=tephra)
- pyroclastic eruption
- A volcanic eruption that produces a large volume of solid volcanic fragments (pyroclastics) rather than fluid lava. This type of eruption is typical of volcanoes with high silica, viscous, gas-rich magma.
- pyroclastic flow
- An extremely hot mixture of gas, ash and pumice fragments, that travels down the flanks of a volcano or along the surface of the ground at speeds of 50 to 100 miles per hour.
- Family of silicate minerals containing iron, magnesium, and calcium in varying amounts. Differ from amphibole family by lack of water in the crystals. The most common variety, augite, contains aluminum as well. Generally forms very dark green to black stubby prisms.
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- radiocarbon dating
- The age of organic material determined by the amounts of carbon isotopes 12, 13 and 14. The ratio of 12 to 14 is about the same in all living things but when a plant or animal dies, no more carbon is taken on. Carbon 12 and 13 are stable isotopes and the amounts remain the same even in dead material. Carbon 14 is an radioactive isotope that decays radioactively until none is left; . Thus, the ratio records the time elapsed since death. Since carbon 14 decays relatively rapidly, the method is only reliable for the last 40,000 years. See radiometric age.
- radiolarian chert
- A rock made up of the spherical siliceous shells of radiolarians which are single-celled planktonic animals (protozoans).
- radiometric age
- The approximate age of a geologic event, feature, fossil, or rock in years. Radiometric ages, sometimes termed 'absolute' ages, are determined by using natural radioactive 'clocks'. See radiocarbon dating.
- radiometric dating
- A dating method that uses measurements of certain radioactive isotopes to calculate the ages in years (absolute age) of rocks and minerals.
- regional metamorphism
- Metamorphism affecting a large region that is associated with mountain building events.
- Refers to differences in elevation of different points in a region.
- relative dating
- The process of placing rocks and geologic structures in the correct chronological order. This process does not yield ages in number of years. See radiometric dating.
- A volcanic rock chemically equivalent to granite. Usually light colored, very fine-grained or glassy-looking. May have tiny visible crystals of quartz and/or feldspar dispersed in a glassy white, green, or pink groundmass.
- ribbon chert
- Chert and shale in thin alternating beds. The beds resemble parallel ribbons stretched over an outcrop.
- rift zone
- A region of Earths crust along which divergence is taking place.
A linear zone of volcanic activity and faulting usually associated with diverging plates or crustal stretching.
- ring of fire
- A zone of volcanoes, earthquakes, and mountain-building encircling the Pacific Ocean formed where plates collide.
- Rocks are made of different kinds of minerals,
or broken pieces of crystals, or broken pieces of rocks. Some rocks are
made of the shells of once-living animals, or of compressed pieces of plants.
Rocks are divided into three basic types, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic, depending upon how they were formed.
- Falling, bouncing, and rolling of debris down slope.
- root of a volcano
- Plutonic igneous rock formed from magma that crystallized beneath the volcano it once fed.
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