Appalachian bend explained

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Tectonics
The Appalachain mountains, USA The Appalachain mountains, USA Shutterstock
01 Sep
2014
A team of US scientists has explained why the Appalachian mountain chain has a curious bend in Pennsylvania and New York State

The Appalachians, which run for roughly 2,400 kilometres from Alabama to Newfoundland, were formed more than 300 million years ago when the North American and African continental plates collided.

The research team studied data collected by the Earthscope project, which uses GPS receivers and an array of portable seismometers to measure ground movement in northeastern USA. This was combined with data from the North American Gravity Database, allowing the researchers to determine the density of the rocks under and around the mountain range.

The results indicated the presence of a volcanic structure about 450 kilometres by 100 kilometres in size. The researchers were then able to use the data to model how the bend formed.

According to one of the study’s authors, Cindy Ebinger of the University of Rochester, scientists had previously known about the structure. ‘What we didn’t understand was the size of the structure or its implications for mountain-building processes,’ she said.

The computer model indicated that as the North American plate was pushed westward into the dense rock structure, it was folded and thrust upwards, creating the mountains. The shape of the structure caused the chain to shift east, forming the characteristic bend.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Nature reserves and protected areas in Germany have lost 76…

Oceans

An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The rapid spread of Asian hornets is likely to make…

Energy

Europe provides more than €112billion (£97billion) in subsidies to fossil…

Oceans

A study of various fish populations has found dramatic reductions…

Geophoto

The seasonal changes of September promise much photographic potential for…

Oceans

Shipping traffic can increase lightning strikes, according to a pioneering…

Polar

New documentary travels to remote Antarctica to unpack the complex…

Oceans

The deaths of these majestic creatures had remained an unsolved…

Wildlife

Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or…

Wildlife

As part of New Zealand’s plan to cull millions of…

Oceans

A project to map the ocean floor is raising concerns…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

Dismay as a Spanish baby dolphin becomes the latest victim…

Polar

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Oceans

The effect of plastics on the world’s oceans is posing…

Geophoto

Camera technology may have come a long way since the…

Energy

The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn…

Wildlife

Despite their high profiles, most of the world’s national animal…