The Navajo Sandstone -- one of the brightly colored rock formations that comprise southern Utah’s famous redrock -- is exposed in the cliffs at Zion National Park, the Petrified Dunes at Arches National Park and in many parts of Capitol Reef National Park.
Now, a new study from the University of Utah concludes that bleaching patterns in the Navajo Sandstone suggest the rock formation once may have harbored vast amounts of hydrocarbons, likely natural gas (methane). And when the once-buried sandstone was exposed and started eroding roughly 6 million years ago, the gas would have been released to the atmosphere. Because methane is a so-called "greenhouse gas," the release of large quantities to the atmosphere may have warmed Earth’s ancient climate.
The study was published in the December 2003 issue of the journal Geology by Brenda Beitler, a University of Utah doctoral student in geology. A summary of that study is reproduced below. It was part of a news release issued by the Geological Society of America outlining contents of the December issue of Geology.
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