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Grand Canyon Gorge Is 9 Times Older Than Thought
National Geographic News ^ | 4-9-2008 | Hope Hamashige

Posted on 04/09/2008 1:26:29 PM PDT by blam

Grand Canyon Gorge Is 9 Times Older Than Thought

Hope Hamashige
for National Geographic News
April 9, 2008

New research on the Grand Canyon challenges the long-held belief that the canyon was carved by the mighty Colorado River about six million years ago.

Parts of the canyon were formed more than 50 million years earlier than previously thought, according to the new study.

The newfound evidence, which will be presented in the May issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin, shows that part of the canyon known as Upper Granite Gorge formed more than 55 million years ago.

The history of the Grand Canyon is far more complicated than previously believed, according to Rebecca Flowers, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the paper's lead author.

"What this tells us is that the entire Grand Canyon didn't suddenly just form six million years ago," Flowers said.

Instead, she explained, the giant chasm may have formed as a series of "ancestral" canyons grew and joined together.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that the history is more complicated and that different segments developed at different times and subsequently became integrated."

Canyon's Deep Debate

Scientists have long argued over how the Grand Canyon, arguably one of the best known and most beautiful landscapes on Earth, was formed. (See photos of the Grand Canyon.)

The most widely held belief was that it was created when geological forces lifted the area and the Colorado River cut down through the resulting plateau.

The canyon's age had been pegged at about six million years based on sediment deposited by the Colorado as it exited the canyon around Lake Mead (see a downloadable map of the Grand Canyon).

The new study used a different technique, a method of dating rocks developed by geologists at the California Institute of Technology called uranium-thorium-helium dating.

By measuring the amounts of uranium and helium contained in samples collected from the Upper Granite Gorge, the researchers could determine the time at which rocks there cooled, indicating when they were unearthed by erosion.

Because temperatures are hotter below Earth's surface, these cooling rates helps scientists determine when rocks were buried deep underground, and when the forces of erosion exposed them to cooler temperatures closer to the surface.

The results showed that the rocks in Upper Granite Gorge were exposed to cooler temperatures near Earth's surface around 55 million years ago.

It also showed that both the rim and the bottom of the gorge had cooled at the same time, suggesting that the gorge formed from previously existing canyons that eventually connected, rather than a plateau.

"If there had not been a canyon, the gorge and rim samples would have been different," noted Brian Wernicke, a geology professor at Caltech.

Karl Karlstrom, a geologist at the University of New Mexico, pointed out that precursor canyons to the Grand Canyon have been proposed before and that the Caltech research supports those theories.

"Every time we get a new tool we learn something new," Karlstrom said.

"This is a strong addition of data that helps to document what has been proposed—that ancestral canyons existed and became linked together."

Other recent research, including a study by geologists at the University of New Mexico published recently in the journal Science, further challenges the idea that the Grand Canyon was created in one fell swoop by the Colorado.

That research found that parts of the canyon were likely formed about 17 million years ago, adding perhaps more credibility to the notion that the parts of the Grand Canyon were created at different times.

More to Learn

Though there is mounting evidence for the existence of precursor canyons around the Grand Canyon, scientists are still a long way from understanding the full history of how the natural landmark was created.

The new research does not call into question, however, that the Colorado River did, on its present course, start spilling sediment into Lake Mead six million years ago.

"That six-million-year figure is solid, and they are not disputing that," said Joel Pederson, a geologist at Utah State University who researches the Grand Canyon.

What is not known is how the precursor canyons were linked together and what the exact course of the Colorado River was before it started unloading sediment around Lake Mead, he said.

"There have been so many hypotheses how the Colorado got pieced together and when," Pederson said.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 9; 90; 999buzzgillion; 99quadrillion; 9billion; arizona; canyon; catastrophism; creation; godsgravesglyphs; gorge; grand; grandcanyon; hopehamashige; nationalgeographic; rebeccaflowers; uppergranitegorge
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To: blam
...Colorado River did, on its present course, start spilling sediment into Lake Mead six million years ago.

Learned something new today.

I thought Lake Mead was only about 70 years old.

21 posted on 04/09/2008 1:49:31 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: blam

He’s been very busy digging around finding lost cities, has written a ton of books and has placed ancient Egyptians in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.


22 posted on 04/09/2008 1:50:48 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: steveo

And not to be sarcastic, So What, our Father has all the answers, consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these as the lilys of the field have more beauty than can be explained.


23 posted on 04/09/2008 1:51:39 PM PDT by boomop1
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To: boomop1
And not to be sarcastic, So What, our Father has all the answers, consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these as the lilys of the field have more beauty than can be explained.

I'm sure it pisses off our Father when the humans he created try to use their curiosity and brains to figure things out about the world he made.

Why do we insist on trying to learn new things? Why can't we just be satisfied with the Holy Word?

Repent all you damn scientists!! (Except if you invented the internet. Or microwave ovens.)

24 posted on 04/09/2008 2:14:39 PM PDT by ConfusedAndLovingIt
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To: Choose Ye This Day

Can you imagine that little seven-year-old calling him Daddy? Or the seven-year-old’s mother, for that matter.


25 posted on 04/09/2008 2:17:23 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: RightWhale

This probably won't help David Hatcher Childress, but I heard someone just last night on AM Radio, talking about "Egyptian artifacts", "mummies", and some old miner being blinded by (...?....) when he stumbled upon some lost trove, down in the canyon. It was on Coast to Coast. Was it Childress?

26 posted on 04/09/2008 2:27:24 PM PDT by BlueDragon (here's the thing; do recognize the bell of truth when you here it ring, c'mon and sing it children)
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To: blam
the long-held belief that the canyon was carved by the mighty Colorado River about six million years ago

I find it amazing what silly stories geologists can tell themselves. And few of the stories are sillier than the conventional wisdom about the origin of the Grand Canyon. The river didn't just carve the canyon. It carved it in concert with the uplifting of all the rock along the length of the canyon. They say. Or, anyway, they said.

ML/NJ

27 posted on 04/09/2008 2:28:29 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: blam

I’ve been living in Arizona since 1981. I suppose I should go see that old canyon one of these days. I hear it’s grand.


28 posted on 04/09/2008 2:28:49 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (It takes a father to raise a child.)
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To: ConfusedAndLovingIt

All rejoice in His power and love, we honor Him in praise.


29 posted on 04/09/2008 2:29:19 PM PDT by boomop1
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To: Jeff Chandler

I remember that the first time I visited Arizona thirty five years ago, I saw the GC and Oak Creek Canyon. Because I could physically drive into and through Oak Creek and exit in beautiful Sedona, it was more inspiring.

The Grand Canyon from the rim is awesome, but it is just too immense to digest from a visit to the rim alone.

I have had hopes that before I get too old I can amend that impression by actually back packing into the big ditch and then obtain the full impression. I alway loved “The Man Who Walked Through Time”.


30 posted on 04/09/2008 2:39:52 PM PDT by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free...their passions forge their fetters.)
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To: Jeff Chandler
WHAT?? OMG!!!

what are you waiting for? 27 years and you haven't seen it yet?

To really see the canyon in all it's glory, you need to hike to the bottom. You wont regret it!

31 posted on 04/09/2008 2:40:24 PM PDT by urabus
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To: ConfusedAndLovingIt

Wha-aelll... some of 'em should at least cut back on the dope

since it just aint natural, and it aint fair either. How's the rest of supposed to know the canyon is 55 million years old? I mean, it's just a bunch of air, aint it?

---------------
-----------

nevermind...
32 posted on 04/09/2008 2:44:35 PM PDT by BlueDragon (here's the thing; do recognize the bell of truth when you here it ring, c'mon and sing it children)
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To: boomop1
All rejoice in His power and love, we honor Him in praise.

But not in learning, apparently.

33 posted on 04/09/2008 2:55:14 PM PDT by ConfusedAndLovingIt
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To: DuncanWaring
I thought Lake Mead was only about 70 years old.

I've seen it, it looks older than that. I'd say 80-85 years old.

The canyon itself doesn't look a day older than 14,000,000 years.

34 posted on 04/09/2008 3:06:25 PM PDT by Graybeard58
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To: Graybeard58; MHGinTN

Ping


35 posted on 04/09/2008 3:09:21 PM PDT by greyfoxx39 (New apologist mantra..and defense.."love the POLYGAMY sin" but hate the sinner.")
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To: geo40xyz

Thats what I call a natural wonder(s) of the world.


36 posted on 04/09/2008 3:24:47 PM PDT by Proud_USA_Republican (We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. - Hillary Clinton)
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To: blam

Don’t believe it.

The concensus is that it was formed 6 million years ago

99% of scientists believe this, the debate is OVER!

This crackpot denier must be in the pay of “Big Geology”.


37 posted on 04/09/2008 3:30:14 PM PDT by Wil H
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To: blam

Actually, everyone knows the canyon was formed when a Scotsman lost a shilling down a rabbit hole..


38 posted on 04/09/2008 3:31:53 PM PDT by Wil H
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To: blam

50 million years? That’s not 9 times older than previously thought, that’s 7637.0856881014204979379868642126 times older!


39 posted on 04/09/2008 3:34:19 PM PDT by Revolting cat! ("I am like...Dude......do you really....like want the Sex?")
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To: Conservative4Life

Ping :)


40 posted on 04/09/2008 4:01:50 PM PDT by Trillian
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