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And so it goes with the bending of seemingly rigid rocks, the cutting of majestic canyons, the raising and erasing of entire mountain ranges, the opening and closing of globe-girdling oceans, and the incessant splitting and regrouping of the dancing continents.
Our usually reliable day-to-day sensibilities tell us that such things can't happen, but they can and do happen because solid rock reveals its malleability only over time scales very long compared to human eventstypically in spans of tens of thousands if not millions of years.
With the formation of the earth pegged at h (midnight), our work day finishes at h, just as we pull up to the present. Each hour corresponds to 0.875 billion years (Ga), each minute to 3.125 million years (Ma) and each second to 52.1 thousand years (Ka).
Conversely, 1 Ga takes 4 hours, 20 minutes out of the day; 1 Ma, 19.2 seconds; and 1 Ka, 19.2 millisecondsliterally the blink of an eye.
This geologic overview focuses primarily on the Colorado Rockies and the Colorado Plateau, but adjoining portions of Wyoming, Utah and the High Plains as far east as the Black Hills of South Dakota also have important and related stories to tell.
Throughout this article, I'll refer to Colorado and these adjoining areas as our region of interest, which closely coincides both with the area shown in the NASA photo at Bearings just below and also with the area affected by Laramide uplift.
As we come up on major divisions along the geologic timeline, a brief "About Time" header will summarize what event or fossil record breakpoint ushered in the upcoming division and show how it's subdivided.I've attempted to point out the most significant unknowns and disagreements, but often, rightly or wrongly, I've simply taken sides.If you take nothing else away from this humble attempt, please consider this: Of Colorado's 55 Fourteeners, all but 2 (Longs Peak and Pikes Peak) lie either along the Colorado Mineral Belt or on the shoulders of the Rio Grande Rift.Most of them cluster around the intersection of these two profound lineaments, both which almost certainly cut the full thickness of the lithosphere.This telling elevation distribution reflects a powerful synergy between truly ancient plate processes driven by the cooling of the earth in the presence of gravity and ongoing mantle processes driven by Lord knows what.