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article imageNew insight into the origin of the Canadian Rockies

By Tim Sandle     Jun 10, 2019 in Environment
A new study provides insight into the origin of the Canadian Rockies, suggesting that the mountains formed from a westward collision event more than 100 million years ago
New research from the University of Alberta finds that the Canadian Rocky Mountains were formed at a time when the North American continent was pulled westward, an event that took place during the closure of an ocean basin off the west coast and collided with a microcontinent (or continental crustal fragments). This happened some 100 million years ago.
The Canadian Rockies (Rocheuses canadiennes) is the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains, lying between the Interior Plains of Alberta and northeastern British Columbia on the east to the Rocky Mountain Trench on the west. The Rockies are formed of sedimentary rock, mainly limestone and shale. The highest peaks are Mount Robson (3,954 meters) and Mount Columbia (3,747 meters).
To derive the new insight into the formation of the Rockies, researchers used high resolution digital data of Earth's subsurface. The researchers also used seismic data collected from a dense network of seismic stations and other geodynamic calculations and geological observations. These various forms of data were combined for the assessment.
The big data analysis led to a new theory as to how the Canadian Rocky Mountains formed. The conventional approach is the so-termed 'accretion model', which suggests a gradual accumulation of additional matter eventually formed the Canadian Rockies. The new study takes a very different direction and suggests that a sudden collision event caused the formation of the mountainous terrain.
According to one of the researchers, Yunfeng Chen: "This study highlights how deep Earth images from geophysical methods can help us to understand the evolution of mountains, one of the most magnificent processes of plate tectonics observed at the Earth's surface."
The new research has been published in the journal Nature Communications, with the research titled "Seismic evidence for a mantle suture and implications for the origin of the Canadian Cordillera."
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