A new study of Californias southern Sierra Nevada range by a University of Colorado at Boulder research team has located a massive body of rock that sank into Earths mantle some 3.5 million years ago, allowing the mountains to pop up.
Sunrise illuminates the crest of the Sierra Nevada north of Mt. Whitney. These peaks owe their elevation to removal of weighty material from the base of the Sierra, material now seen descending into the mantle. Photo courtesy Craig Jones, CU-Boulder
Undertaken with a high-tech suite of instruments designed to probe the geology to roughly 125 miles below Earths surface, the study illustrated the mountain building process in the southern Sierras with unprecedented detail.
The study explains how the southern Sierra mountains rose when a body of underlying dense rock sank down and away from the base of the 35-kilometer-deep crust. Authored by CU-Boulder doctoral student Oliver Boyd and CU-Boulder geological sciences Associate Professors Craig Jones and Anne Sheehan, the paper appeared in the July 30 issue of Science.
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