New research suggests Wyoming could be the original source of the Rocky Mountains, a natural development that has puzzled geologists for years. North America's Rocky Mountain range--about 620 miles inland--defies the geological norm, as mountains are normally formed near coastlines, National Geographic's Anne Minard explains.
The latest issue of the journal Geosphere offers a new approach to looking at the Rocky Mountains' development, suggesting an unheard of collission between an oceanic plate and strong portion of the Earth's crust and mantle right below what is now Wyoming. Suction from the collision drew the oceanic plate up and the continental one above it down, "forming the Wyoming-Colorado Basin, the theory goes." The study's author describes the upper plate (Wyoming) as "a sheet of rubber topped with a layer of molasses--rock behaving something like a thick liquid over vast stretches of time." The underground faults that resulted from pressure between the two layers "then allowed rock/layers to thrust upward, forming the Rocky Mountains."
The Wyoming theory isn't proven, but as one geologist points out to National Geographic, this new theory completely challenges what the geology community thought it knew about the birth of the Rockies. Some of the theory's proponents plan to take it to South America to discover whether or not the same hypothesis might explain the Andes' formation as well.
Bottom line? We may have Wyoming and its molasses-y texture to thank for the Rockies!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.