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How did the earth move?

Geoscientists at the University of St Andrews are about to undertake a study of how the Earth moved over millions of years.

The group have been awarded funding by the British Geological Survey (BGS) to undertake a detailed survey of rocks in the North West Highlands of Scotland, an area renowned by geologists all over the World for tracking rock movement.

The project, which is in collaboration the Universities of Durham and Oxford Brookes, will carefully map out and analyse the way in which rocks have deformed and moved relative to one another.

Dr Ian Alsop of the School of Geography and Geosciences at St Andrews is the project co- ordinator for the universities. Dr Alsop will spend all of this week in Sutherland making maps of the different types of rocks there.

He said: “The NW Highlands of Scotland is a world-renowned geological site as the concept of major blocks of rock moving over one another was developed and tested in this area in the late 19th century. In this study, we will map out different units of rock and analyse the way in which blocks were displaced and deformed during a period of mountain building which took place 420 million years ago and extended from Scandinavia to North America.”

“Rocks which are now next to each other may originally have been widely separated with these major blocks being brought together to build and create what we now recognise as Scotland. The exact amount of movement between the ancient rocks forming the Outer Hebrides and those now forming the bulk of Sutherland and Ross-shire is difficult to calculate but may amount to hundreds of km,” he continued.

The study will show similarities between the ancient mountains of Scotland and younger mountain chains such as the Himalayas, and show how rocks are able to flow and fold, or alternatively may shatter and break to generate earthquakes as they slip past one another. The work will result in new geological map sheets of the region to be published by the B.G.S. and made available to the public.

ENDS

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

A LANDSCAPE IMAGE OF THE HIGHLAND SITE IS AVAILABLE BY EMAIL – PLEASE CONTACT GAYLE COOK – CONTACT DETAILS BELOW

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: Alsop rock study pr 090603 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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