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Geologic Time Chapter 8.

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Presentation on theme: "Geologic Time Chapter 8."— Presentation transcript:

1 Geologic Time Chapter 8

2 Historical notes Catastrophism Modern geology
Landscapes developed by catastrophes James Ussher, mid-1600s, concluded Earth was only a few thousand years old (created in 4004 B.C.) Modern geology Fundamental principle of geology Uniformitarianism aka “The present is the key to the past” James Hutton Theory of the Earth Published in the late 1700s

3 “Hutton’s Unconformity” on Siccar Point, Scotland, is a common destination for geologists.

4 Geologic Time There are two ways of dating geological materials.
Relative ages – Based upon order of formation. Qualitative method developed 100s of years ago. Permit determination of older vs. younger relationships. Numerical ages – Actual number of years since an event. Quantitative method developed recently. Age is given a number.

5 Relative vs. Absolute Relative ages assign order to events.
Numerical ages assign exact dates to events.

6 Relative dating Law of superposition
Developed by Nicolaus Steno in 1669 In an undeformed sequence of sedimentary rocks (or layered igneous rocks), the oldest rocks are on the bottom

7 Superposition is well-illustrated by the strata in the Grand Canyon

8 Principle of original horizontality
Layers of sediment are generally deposited in a horizontal position Rock layers that are flat have not been disturbed Principle of cross-cutting relationships Younger features cut across older features

9 Cross-cutting relationships
© 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

10 Inclusions Unconformity
An inclusion is a piece of rock that is enclosed within another rock Rock containing the inclusion is younger Unconformity An unconformity is a break in the rock record produced by erosion and/or nondeposition of rock units

11 Unconformity Types of unconformities
Angular unconformity—Tilted rocks are overlain by flat-lying rocks Disconformity—Strata on either side of the unconformity are parallel Nonconformity—Metamorphic or igneous rocks in contact with sedimentary strata



14 animation

15 animation

16 Angular Unconformity “Hutton’s Unconformity” on Siccar Point, Scotland, is a common destination for geologists.

17 Fossils: Evidence of past life
Fossil—traces or remains of prehistoric life now preserved in rock Fossils are generally found in sediment or sedimentary rock (rarely in metamorphic and never in igneous rock) Paleontology—study of fossils

18 Geologically fossils are important because they
Aid in interpretation of the geologic past Serve as important time indicators Allow for correlation of rocks from different places Conditions favoring preservation Rapid burial Possession of hard parts (skeleton, shell, etc.)

19 Types of fossils Petrified - turned into stone
Replacement – cell walls and and solid material replaced with minerals Mold and cast Impressions Amber Coprolite Tracks Burrows

20 Trilobite showing mold and cast preservation

21 Petrified wood from Arizona

22 Fossils and correlation
Matching of rocks of similar ages in different regions is known as correlation Correlation often relies upon fossils William Smith (late 1700s) noted that sedimentary strata in widely separated areas could be identified and correlated by their distinctive fossil content

23 Principle of fossil succession—Fossil organisms succeed one another in a definite and determinable order, and therefore any time period can be recognized by its fossil content Index fossil—Geographically widespread fossil that is limited to a short span of geologic time

24 Dating rocks using overlapping fossil ranges

25 Dating with radioactivity
Reviewing basic atomic structure Nucleus Protons—positively charged particles with mass Neutrons—neutral particles with mass Electrons—negatively charged particles that orbit the nucleus Atomic number Element’s identifying number Equal to the number of protons

26 Reviewing basic atomic structure
Mass number Sum of the number of protons and neutrons Isotope Variant of the same parent atom Differs in the number of neutrons Results in a different mass number than the parent atom

27 Types of radioactive decay
Radioactivity Spontaneous changes (decay) in the structure of atomic nuclei Types of radioactive decay Alpha emission Emission of 2 protons and 2 neutrons (an alpha particle) Mass number is reduced by 4 and the atomic number is lowered by 2

28 Types of radioactive decay
Beta emission An electron (beta particle) is ejected from the nucleus Mass number remains unchanged and the atomic number increases by 1 Electron capture An electron is captured by the nucleus and combines with a proton to form a neutron Mass number remains unchanged and the atomic number decreases by 1


30 Parent—an unstable radioactive isotope
Daughter product—the isotopes resulting from the decay of a parent Half-life—the time required for one-half of the radioactive nuclei in a sample to decay

31 Radiometric dating Principle of radioactive dating
The percentage of radioactive atoms that decay during one half-life is always the same (50 percent) However, the actual number of atoms that decay continually decreases Comparing the ratio of parent to daughter yields the age of the sample

32 Radioactive decay curve

33 animation

34 Dating with Carbon-14 (Radiocarbon dating)
Used to date very recent events (half-life of 5,730 years) and historic events Continually produced in the upper atmosphere from cosmic-ray bombardment All living things have carbon-14 in them Anthropologists, archeologists, and historians use carbon-14 dating

35 Importance of radiometric dating
Sources of error A closed system is required To avoid potential problems, only fresh, unweathered rock samples should be used Importance of radiometric dating Rocks from several localities have been dated at more than 3 billion years Confirms the idea that geologic time is immense

36 The geologic time scale
The geologic time scale—A “calendar” of Earth history Subdivides geologic history into units Originally created using relative dates Structure of the geologic time scale Eon—The greatest expanse of time Phanerozoic (“visible life”)—The most recent eon, began about 540 million years ago Proterozoic Archean Hadean—The oldest eon

37 Structure of the geologic time scale
Era—Subdivision of an eon Eras of the Phanerozoic eon Cenozoic (“recent life”) Mesozoic (“middle life”) Paleozoic (“ancient life”) Eras are subdivided into periods Periods are subdivided into epochs

38 The geologic time scale


40 Precambrian Nearly 4 billion years prior to the Cambrian period
Not divided into smaller time units because the events of Precambrian history are not known in great enough detail First abundant fossil evidence does not appear until the beginning of the Cambrian

41 Difficulties in dating the geologic time scale
Not all rocks can be dated by radiometric methods Grains comprising detrital sedimentary rocks are not the same age as the rock in which they formed The age of a particular mineral in a metamorphic rock may not necessarily represent the time when the rock formed Datable materials (such as volcanic ash beds and igneous intrusions) are often used to bracket various episodes in Earth history and arrive at ages

42 Bracketing sedimentary ages using igneous rocks

43 Questions?

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