Chapter 8: Geologic Time

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1 Chapter 8: Geologic Time The Art of Time The History of Relative Time Geologic Time Numerical Time Rates of Change Copyright The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Permission required for reproduction or display.

2 Geologic Time How long has this landscape looked like this? How can you tell? Will your grandchildren see this if they hike here in 80 years?

3 The Art of Time How would you create a piece of art to illustrate the passage of time? How do you think the Earth itself illustrates the passage of time? What time scale is illustrated in the example above? How well does this relate to geological time/geological forces?

4 Go back to the Table of Contents Go to the next section: The History of (Relative) Time

5 The History of (Relative) Time Paradigm shift: 17 th century science was a baby and geology as a discipline did not exist. Today, hypothesis testing method supports a geologic (scientific) age for the earth as opposed to a biblical age. Structures such as the oldest Egyptian pyramids ( B.C.) and the Great Wall of China (688 B.C.) fall within a historical timeline that humans can relate to, while geological events may seem to have happened before time existed!

6 The History of (Relative) Time A B The Grand Canyon rock layers record thousands of millions of years of geologic history. Relative Time = which came first, second Grand Canyon excellent model Which do you think happened first the deposition of the rocks, or the cutting through of those rocks by the river. Why? At which location on the picture above, A or B, are the rocks younger?

7 The History of (Relative) Time Red rock units Tan rock units -More complicated histories are represented by multiple events. Important principles: Superposition rocks at the bottom are the oldest. Cross-cutting relationships older rocks may be cut by younger rocks or features. Inclusion Younger rocks may incorporate pieces of older rocks. -Above: Explain the history of the rocks using the events deposition, erosion, and tilting. Refer to the diagram at left for help. (Hint: there are 4 major events)

8 The History of (Relative) Time 18 th century - James Hutton watched the landscape of his farmland and invented our modern concept of geologic time. Observation: Deductions: The landscape remained unchanged with the passage of time. 1) The same slow-acting geological processes that operate today have operated in the past, meaning it takes a long time to influence the Earth s surface significantly (Uniformitarianism). 2) All land should be worn flat (erosion) unless some process renews the landscape by forming new mountains (cyclical change). - he called these eroded surfaces, representing gaps in time, unconformities. Controversial resulting message Earth must be much older than the commonly accepted age of 6,000 years.

9 Checkpoint 8.2 Examine the following image of rock layers and answer Questions 1 and 2 about relative time. 1. Which statement is most accurate? E A C F a. D is older than B b. E is older than A B D c. F is older than C

10 Checkpoint 8.2 Examine the following image of rock layers and answer Questions 1 and 2 about relative time. 2. E A a. After A was deposited C F B When did the tilting of the layers occur? D b. Between deposition of layers E and A c. Before B was deposited d. Between deposition of layers C and E

11 The History of (Relative) Time Grand Canyon Rock Sequence: -Rocks at base are older than rocks at top (superposition). -Examine lowest units which is older, the schist or the granite? Why? -Schist metamorphic thought to have been the root of an ancient mountain belt or volcanic arc. How did the schist/granite get exposed at the surface?

12 The History of (Relative) Time Sandstone, shale, limestone progression indicative of passive margin (rising sea level).

13 The History of (Relative) Time How can we tell that the volcanism is younger than formation of the sedimentary rocks?

14 Checkpoint 8.6 The Power of Fossils Geologists can correlate sedimentary rocks by comparing the fossils found within the rocks Fossils found in many rock layers (long lived species) are difficult to match to layers in other regions. Index fossils: species that existed for a relatively short period of geologic time and found over large geographic areas are the best for precise correlations. Which of the fossils in the diagram at left (1,2, or 3) would make the best index fossil? Why?

15 The History of (Relative) Time Fossils of the Grand Canyon support the geologic interpretations Although they do not preserve the body of an organism, tracks are important trace fossils that tell us something about the organisms that left them behind.

16 Go back to the Table of Contents Go to the next section: Geologic Time

17 Geologic Time (new life) (middle life) (ancient life) Proterozoic = earlier life Phanerozoic = life revealed Fossils are rare in pre- Phanerozoic rocks.

18 Geologic Time Cambrian explosion ( Ma) Explosion of organisms with hard skeletons at beginning of Cambrian Q: Why does this matter? A: Hard parts can be easily preserved as fossils.

19 Geologic Time Checkpoint 8.10 Carefully examine the relative positions of the lettered arrows in the following diagram and answer the questions: 1) Which letter corresponds most closely to the first appearance in the rock record of abundant fossils? 2) Which letter corresponds most closely to the extinction of the dinosaurs?

20 Geologic Time The majority of all species that have lived on Earth are now extinct All major phyla were derived by the Cambrian. The diversity of organisms has increased through time. Q: How would an extinction affect biodiversity? A: Biodiversity decreases after a major extinction event.

21 Geologic Time Look at the graph do you see any patterns? Do they make sense?

22 Geologic Time Mass extinctions = events in which large numbers of species die. Fossils found in rocks deposited before a mass extinction event are substantially different from those found in rocks from after the event. The extinct mastodon, a smaller cousin of the mammoth.

23 Geologic Time Major mass extinctions throughout geologic history Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction (~ 65 Ma): No dinosaurs (except perhaps birds) survived the event. Mammals were able to expand and become the dominant group. WHY? The cause is believed to be impact on earth by a large comet/asteroid. In all, about 75% of all species were destroyed. Permian-Triassic (P-T) extinction (~ 251 Ma): Killed off ~96% of marine species and 70% of land species. Often called the great dying. Studying extinction events can shed light on 1) the cause of the extinction, and 2) the response of different types of organisms to such events. Why might some species go extinct while others don t?

24 Geologic Time Concept Survey How might each of the following events have contributed to global changes that could have caused extinctions? A. Assembly of the supercontinent Pangea and creation of a single worldwide ocean B. Thousands of volcanic eruptions over a period of one million years in northeastern Russia C. An impact event (comet/asteroid)

25 Go back to the Table of Contents Go to the next section: Numerical Time

26 Numerical Time Early methods for determining the age of the Earth were flawed: yielded ages too recent Salinity of oceans salt delivered to oceans from the continents through streams. Mass of salt in oceans/amount of salt contributed to oceans each year by streams = age of Earth. Age estimate = ~100 million years old. -Flaw did not take into account the formation of chemical sedimentary rocks which removes salt from the oceans. Conductive cooling of earth knowing Earth s volume and properties of rocks, can calculate how long it would take for earth to cool from molten state to present state. Age estimate = ~100 million years old. - Flaws did not yet know about radioactive decay and the resulting contribution of heat. Nor was the theory of plate tectonics yet proposed, and calculations were made assuming heat was diffused uniformly across the earth s surface.

27 Numerical Time Checkpoint 8.13 Between 1860 and 1920 geologists attempted to estimate the Earth s age by how long it would take for the thickest sequences of sedimentary rocks to form. Geologists examined sequences of rocks for each geologic period. From the estimated rates for the formation of these units, different scientists estimated ages for Earth ranging from 3 million years to 15 billion years. Explain why these estimates varied over such a wide range.

28 Numerical Time Unstable isotopes held the key to the numerical age of the Earth! Isotopes atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons.

29 Numerical Time Radioactive decay our clock for planet Earth Protons (positively charged) repel each other. This repulsion is balanced by neutrons acting as a buffer, but in some isotopes the repulsion is too great = unstable isotopes. An unstable nucleus may spontaneously change to a more stable form through radioactive decay. Radioactive decay releases energy (heat). Unstable original isotope = parent Stable new isotope = daughter

30 Numerical Time a. Addition of an electron neutralizes positive charge of one proton changing it to a neutron. b. Loss of an electron gives one neutron a positive charge changing it to a proton.

31 Numerical Time Ages calculated using radioactive decay tell us when the minerals in a rock first solidified from a molten state or formed through metamorphism. Radioactive ages do not tell us when a sedimentary rock was deposited. Oldest rocks on Earth ~ 4 billion years old. This is when our crust began to form (solidify) from the molten state. Age of Earth, 4.6 billion years old, comes from radiometric ages of meteorites and moon rocks.

32 Numerical Time Concept Survey Half-life = the time it takes for half of the parent isotopes to convert to daughter atoms. Isotopes have characteristic half-lives. In other words, the length of the half-life for a given isotope is always the same. Experiment: Take out a sheet of paper. This is your parent isotope. The initial ratio of parent to daughter is 1:0, or 100% parent and 0% daughter. Every 5 seconds, tear it in half and set the new piece aside into a pile of daughter atoms. Each time you tear a piece in half you are reproducing radioactive decay. Keep on tearing until you cannot tear it anymore. How many pieces do you have in your daughter pile after 15 seconds? What is the ratio of parent to daughter after 15 seconds? How many pieces of daughter did you end up with? What was the half-life of your fictitious isotope?

33 Numerical Time These ratios don t change, regardless of isotope. The ratio of parent isotopes to daughter atoms tells us how many half-lives have passed, and therefore tells us age! Very little parent remains

34 Numerical Time Isotopes with longer half-lives are better for dating older rocks (daughter has had time to accumulate). Isotopes with short half-lives are only useful for dating younger rocks, as almost all parent will have decayed over a relatively short period of time.

35 100 0 N/A : : : :15 Keep dividing by %Parent Sample Age = #T 1/2 x (Length of Time for one Isotope Half life)

36 Numerical Time Concept Survey Which of the isotopes listed in the chart would be most useful for dating rocks that formed shortly after the Earth formed? A. Uranium 235 B. Carbon 14 C. Uranium 238 D. All of the above

37 Numerical Time Checkpoint ) Radioactive isotopes in clastic sedimentary rocks always predict an age that is: a. older than the sedimentary rock. b. younger than the sedimentary rock c. correct for the sedimentary rock Note: can you explain your answer?

38 Numerical Time Checkpoint ) The isotope of element X has 15 protons, 17 neutrons, and 15 electrons. The element therefore has an atomic number of, and a mass number of. a. 15; 32 b. 17; 15 c. 17; 47 d. 15; 30

39 Numerical Time Checkpoint ) If radioactive decay began with 400,000 parent isotopes, how many would be left after three half-lives? a. 200,000 b. 100,000 c. 50,000 d. 25,000

40 Numerical Time Checkpoint 8.15 The half-life of a radioactive isotope is 500 million years. Scientists testing a rock sample discover that the sample contains three times as many daughter atoms as parent isotopes. What is the age of the rock? a. 500 million years b. 1,500 million years c. 1,000 million years d. 2,500 million years

41 Numerical Time Sedimentary rock ages are determined using a combination of relative time and numerical ages.

42 Go back to the Table of Contents Go to the next section: Rates of Change

43 Rates of Change Recall James Hutton s suggestion that features on the Earth s surface were formed by the same slow processes that we see operating today. This concept is known as uniformitarianism. Green River, Canyonlands (1871) Green River, Canyonlands (1968)

44 Rates of Change The concept of uniformitarianism would suggest that the ancient mudcracks (lower) formed under the same conditions that form modern mudcracks (above). By understanding modern processes, we can learn about processes that occurred in the geological past. The present is the key to the past.

45 Rates of Change Mountains and oceans grand features that were hard to explain. With no rigorous scientific method, people explained these features as the result of short, catastrophic events. Catastrophism: The Earth has been (and can be) affected by short duration, sometimes violent events that may be global in nature. Catastrophic events without precedents that cannot be explained by physical or chemical processes are not science. High-magnitude events relatively rare, affect a large area Low-magnitude events frequent, more localized

46 Rates of Change Checkpoint 8.18 Place each of the following events in the appropriate location on the timeline below, according to either its frequency (how often) or length of time over which it occurs. 1. The time between large eruptions of the same volcano 2. A season (e.g. spring) 3. Time between great earthquakes on the San Andreas fault 4. Period required to form the Atlantic Ocean 5. Formation and decay of a tornado 6. Earth s orbit around the sun 7. Length of orbit around the sun 8. Time between mass extinctions 9. Time required to carve the Grand Canyon 10. Growth of major U.S. cities 11. Formation and decay of a hurricane

47 Rates of Change Checkpoint 8.19 List some examples of events that can influence the Earth. Say whether they are high-magnitude or low-magnitude events and why.

48 Rates of Change Checkpoint 8.19 We have just discussed Earth history stretching back 4.6 billion years. Has the history of life on Earth been more affected by rare, high-magnitude events or frequent, low-magnitude processes? Justify your choice.

49 Geologic Time Concept Map Complete the concept map to evaluate your understanding of the interactions between the earth system and geologic time. Label as many interactions as you can using information from this chapter.

50 The End Go back to the Table of Contents

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