And the mountain moved: Scientists study how Heart Mountain shifted

May 17, 2006

"Moving mountains" has come to mean doing the impossible. Yet at least once in the past, one mountain relocated a fair distance away. This feat took place around 50 million years ago, in the area of the present-day border between Montana and Wyoming.

Heart Mountain was part of a larger mountain range when the 100 km (62 mile) long ridge somehow became detached from its position and shifted about 100 km to the southwest.

This "migrating mountain" has garnered interest from geologists and geophysicists around the world who have tried to solve the mystery behind the largest known instance of land movement on the face of any continent. Dr. Einat Aharonov of the Weizmann Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Research Department, working in collaboration with Dr. Mark Anders of Columbia University in New York, recently published a paper in the scientific journal Geology that offers an explanation for the phenomenon.

Aharonov and Ander's explanation is based on dikes – vertical cracks in the rock that fill with hot lava boiling up from deep in the earth. In Heart Mountain, these dikes formed a passage for the lava, three kilometers deep, through the limestone aquifer (a porous, water-soaked layer).

There, the sizzling lava would have heated the water to extreme temperatures, causing tremendous fluid pressures. The scientists developed a mathematical model (based on the number of dikes in the mountain and their structure) that allowed them to calculate the temperatures and pressures that would have been created deep within the base of the mountain.

The results showed that the infiltrating hot lava would have turned the water in the aquifer layer into a sort of giant pressure cooker, releasing enough force to move Heart Mountain from its original spot to its present site.

Source: American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

Explore further: Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New view of Rainier's volcanic plumbing

Jul 17, 2014

By measuring how fast Earth conducts electricity and seismic waves, a University of Utah researcher and colleagues made a detailed picture of Mount Rainier's deep volcanic plumbing and partly molten rock ...

Image: Soaring over Lunar Mt. Hadley

Jun 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —Apollo mission planners selected an adventurous landing site for Apollo 15 located on a relatively small patch of lava plains, called "mare" on the moon. This site is nestled between the towering ...

The Isthmus of Panama: Out of the Deep Earth

Apr 01, 2014

As dates in geologic history go, the formation of the slender land bridge that joins South America and North America is a red-letter one. More than once over the past 100 million years, the two great landmasses ...

Recommended for you

Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

5 hours ago

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water which is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle ...

New research reveals Pele is powerful, even in the sky

11 hours ago

One might assume that a tropical storm moving through volcanic smog (vog) would sweep up the tainted air and march on, unchanged. However, a recent study from atmospheric scientists at the University of Hawai'i ...

Image: Wildfires continue near Yellowknife, Canada

11 hours ago

The wildfires that have been plaguing the Northern Territories in Canada and have sent smoke drifting down to the Great Lakes in the U.S. continue on. NASA's Aqua satellite collected this natural-color image ...

Excavated ship traced to Colonial-era Philadelphia

13 hours ago

Four years ago this month, archeologists monitoring the excavation of the former World Trade Center site uncovered a ghostly surprise: the bones of an ancient sailing ship. Tree-ring scientists at Columbia ...

User comments : 0