Friday Profile – The Grand Canyon: Researchers solve the mystery

As summer approaches many families are planning how they are going to spend their summer vacation. Among many activities, people from all over the world will be making their way to the Grand Canyon National Park (which gets over 5 million visitors a year!) to take in one of the first and most notable national parks in the United States. But this year will be a little different.

This year will be the first time visitors will be able to look into the famous canyon and know how it was formed, thanks to researchers from Rice University who recently took the first step in solving the geological mystery.

In last 70 million years, the Colorado Plateau of the southwestern United States, which covers Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico — a 130,000-square mile region — used to be flat and reach  1.2 miles high. The plateau was then invaded by magma causing it to erode and create deep valleys and landscapes that tourists now flock to, like the Grand Canyon (LiveScience).

Before recent findings, a popular theory was that the valleys were slowly created over the millennia by the Colorado River. New research shows the magma would have created the Grand Canyon in only the last 6-7 million years, a much shorter amount of time than some theorized.

Researchers will continue solving the mystery of the Grand Canyon by searching for the cause behind the magma rising. The “drips” caused by the magma are increasingly being found all over the world and giving scientists new a perspective on Earth’s formations.

“[The drips are] a new component to our understanding of how continents evolve that we’re just trying to figure out now,” said Seismologist George Zandt in an interview with OurAmazingPlanet.

What are some places you’re going to this summer with your family? Need some ideas on how to fill your summer with learning? On May 10, student success expert Maureen Breeze will be presenting the webinar, Summer Learning: Fostering Analytical, Practical, and Creative Intelligence. Parents, educators, counselors, and administrators who work with grades 5-12 and want learn more about why summer time is a great time for learning are encouraged to attend.


Grand Canyon:

Mystery of Grand Canyon’s Formation Revealed:

How the Grand Canyon Was Formed: Anomaly Gives New Clues:

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