Historical Geology/Glossary and index

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100,000 year problem[edit | edit source]

The question of why over the last million years, climatic variation has been driven by the 100,000 year Milankovitch cycle rather than the 41,000 year Milankovitch cycle. Article: Milankovitch cycles.

Aa[edit | edit source]

A type of lava flow, or the cooled and solidified rock produced by it, characterized by the rough jagged surface of the resulting rock. Article: Way-up structures.

Ablation zone[edit | edit source]

The end of a glacier; the point at which loss of ice by melting exceeds the supply of ice by the movement of the glacier. Articles: Glaciers, Glacial marine sediment, Ice ages.

Abrasion[edit | edit source]

Erosion of rocks caused by the sediments carried by wind or water. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Absolute dating[edit | edit source]

Dating methods which tell us how old a rock or fossil is, as opposed to relative dating. Articles: Concepts in absolute dating, Erosion, deposition, and time, Dendrochronology, Varves, Amino acid dating, Radioactive decay, K-Ar dating, Ar-Ar dating, Rb-Sr dating, Other isochron methods, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating, Radiocarbon dating, Cosmogenic surface dating, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating, Paleomagnetic dating, Sclerochronology, Tidal rhythmites and dating, Fossils and absolute dating, Absolute dating: an overview

Abyssal plain[edit | edit source]

The flat terrain found at the bottom of the ocean beyond the continental margin. Article: Marine sediments.

Accretionary prism[edit | edit source]

An accumulation of sediment which forms in a trench. Article: Subduction.

Accretionary wedge[edit | edit source]

A synonym for accretionary prism. Article: Subduction.

Accumulation zone[edit | edit source]

The beginning of a glacier; the zone in which snowfall exceeds the loss of snow by melting or evaporation. Article: Glaciers.

Acidic rock[edit | edit source]

An outdated and inaccurate term for felsic rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

ACM[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for atmospheric circulation model. Article: Climate models.

Actualism[edit | edit source]

The observation that the geological record can be explained in terms of the sort of geological processes that actually happen. Articles: Actualism, Steno's principles.

Aeolian[edit | edit source]

Having to do with the wind. Article: Deserts.

Aeolian sandstone[edit | edit source]

Sandstone formed from sand deposited by the wind, i.e. desert sand. Article: Deserts.

Al[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element aluminum. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Alkenones[edit | edit source]

Organic molecules produced by certain planktonic organisms, used in the temperature proxy known as Uk'37. Article: Uk'37.

Alluvial fan[edit | edit source]

A fan-shaped deposit of sediment left where a mountain stream reaches a plain. Articles: Deserts, Rivers.

Alpha decay[edit | edit source]

Radioactive decay involving the emission of an alpha particle. Article: Radioactive decay.

Alpha particle[edit | edit source]

A particle consisting of two protons and two neutrons. Article: Radioactive decay.

Aluminosilicate[edit | edit source]

Any of an important class of silicate minerals in which the structure involves aluminum-based as well as silicon-based tetrahedra. Article: Minerals.

Alpine glacier[edit | edit source]

Synonym for valley glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Amber[edit | edit source]

A mineraloid formed from the solidified resin of trees. Article: Fossils.

Amino acid dating[edit | edit source]

A rather unreliable method of absolute dating based on measuring the racemization of organic remains. Article: Amino acid dating.

Amorphous[edit | edit source]

Lacking a crystal structure. Article: Minerals.

Ammonite[edit | edit source]

An extinct marine mollusc. Articles: Geological column, Index fossils.

Amphibole[edit | edit source]

A group of silicate minerals in which the SiO44- units are bonded to form a double chain. Article: Silicate minerals, Igneous rocks.

Angle of repose[edit | edit source]

The maximum angle from the horizontal that a heap of a given type of sediment can assume without collapsing. Article: Steno's principles.

Angular unconformity[edit | edit source]

An unconformity in which the older strata meet the younger strata at an angle, the older strata being truncated by the erosional surface. Article: Unconformities.

Anomaly[edit | edit source]

In geology, the term "anomaly" means a measurement at some place of some quantity which is different from the average or background value for that quantity.This should not be confused with the usage of the term "anomaly" in the philosophy of science, where it means a measurement or observation which cannot be reconciled with current theory. In geology, the term has no such implication. Article: Sea floor spreading.

Antecedent river[edit | edit source]

A river which is present before the uplift of the hills through which it flows. Article: Rivers.

Anthracite[edit | edit source]

A very black, hard, and shiny form of coal produced by metamorphism. Article: Peat and coal.

Anticline[edit | edit source]

Structure formed when rocks are folded upwards. Article: Folds.

Antidune[edit | edit source]

A rounded dune-like structure found in rivers of the right velocity and having a sandy bottom. Because they erode by the transport of sand grains from the lee side of one antidune to the stoss side of the next, the net effect is that while the sand moves downstream, the antidunes move upstream. Article: Rivers.

Antisyncline[edit | edit source]

An upward fold in rocks. Article: Folds.

Aphanitic[edit | edit source]

An igneous rock is said to be aphanitic if the crystals in it are too small to be seen with the naked eye. In this textbook I have tended to use the more straightforward term "fine-grained". Article: Igneous rocks.

Apparent polar wander[edit | edit source]

Apparent secular variation recorded in the paleomagnetic record which is actually caused by the motion of plates relative to the poles. Article: Continental drift.

Ar[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element argon. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, K-Ar dating, Ar-Ar dating.

Ar-Ar dating[edit | edit source]

Argon-argon dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Ar-Ar dating.

Aseismic ridge[edit | edit source]

A long linear trail of volcanic islands and seamounts caused by a plate passing over a hotspot. Article: Hotspots.

Archaecyathids[edit | edit source]

Early reef-building organisms, shaped rather like goblets and secreting skeletons of calcium carbonate; they went extinct at the end of the Cambrian period. Article: Reefs.

Argillaceous[edit | edit source]

Having to do with mud. May be used to qualify the nature of a rock, e.g. argillaceous sandstone would be sandstone with a significant amount of mud mixed in with the sand. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Arenaceous[edit | edit source]

Having to do with sand. May be used to qualify the nature of a rock, e.g. arenaceous mudrock would be mudrock with a significant amount of sand mixed in with the mud. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Arenite[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for sandstone. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Arkose[edit | edit source]

Sandstone which contains an appreciable quantity of feldspar as well as the more usual quartz. The grains are often poorly sorted and not well rounded. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Athenosphere[edit | edit source]

The portion of the mantle just below the lithosphere. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Atom[edit | edit source]

A nucleus of protons and neutrons orbited by electrons arranged in electron shells. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Atmospheric circulation model[edit | edit source]

A climate model which only takes into account the circulation of the atmosphere and not the oceanic circulation. Article: Climate models.

Atomic number[edit | edit source]

The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Atomic weight[edit | edit source]

The sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Attrition[edit | edit source]

Erosional processes whereby the clasts transported by wind or water are broken or worn down. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Aureole[edit | edit source]

A ring of metamorphic rock formed around an igneous intrusion by contact metamorphism. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

B[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element boron. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Ba[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element barium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Backshore[edit | edit source]

That part of a beach which is above the high-water line. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Bajada[edit | edit source]

The merging of two or more alluvial fans. Article: Deserts.

Banded iron formation[edit | edit source]

Sedimentary rock consisting of alternating bands of iron oxide and other sedimentary rock, typically chert. Article: Banded iron formations.

Bar[edit | edit source]

A local accumulation of sediment, usually sand, such as forms in between the channels of a braided stream or offshore from a beach. Article: Rivers.

Barrier island[edit | edit source]

An island formed at the mouth of a river running at right angles to the direction of the distributary streams. Article: Deltas.

Basalt[edit | edit source]

A mafic intrusive igneous rock, black in color and aphanitic. Article: Igneous rocks.

Basic rock[edit | edit source]

An obsolete and inaccurate term for mafic rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Be[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element berylium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Bed[edit | edit source]

A layer in a sedimentary rock. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Bedding[edit | edit source]

A structure found in sedimentary rocks in which the rock is visibly composed of numerous layers (beds). Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Bedding planes[edit | edit source]

The planes dividing the beds in a bedded rock. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Bedrock[edit | edit source]

The solid rock underlying unlithified sediment. Articles: Glaciers, Rivers.

Beta decay[edit | edit source]

A type of radioactive decay including beta plus and beta minus decay; the term is sometimes used to include electron capture as well. Article: Radioactive decay.

Beta minus decay[edit | edit source]

A form of radioactive decay in which one of the neutrons in the atom is converted to a proton by emitting an electron. Article: Radioactive decay.

Beta plus decay[edit | edit source]

A form of radioactive decay in which a proton is converted into a neutron by the emission of a positron. Article: Radioactive decay.

BIF[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for banded iron formation. Article: Banded iron formations.

Biogeography[edit | edit source]

The study of the geographical distribution of living or extinct organisms. Articles: Continental drift, Biogeography and climate.

Bioturbation[edit | edit source]

Changes in the structure of sediment caused by the activity of living things. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Bituminous coal[edit | edit source]

The commonest form of coal: less peat-like than sub-bituminous coal, but not as hard, black, and pure as anthracite. Article: Peat and coal.

Bivalve[edit | edit source]

A member of a group of molluscs characterized by being enclosed in two shells (valves). Common examples are mussels, clams, and oysters. Articles: Reefs, Way-up structures.

Body waves[edit | edit source]

Seismic waves which pass through the body of the Earth rather than traveling on its surface; a collective term for S-waves and P-waves. Articles: Seismic waves, Structure of the Earth.

Borax[edit | edit source]

An evaporite mineral having the chemical formula Na2B4O7·10H2O. Article: Deserts.

Bottom-set beds[edit | edit source]

Horizontal beds of sediment deposited on the sea or lake floor in front of a delta. Article: Deltas.

Bouma sequence[edit | edit source]

The characteristic pattern of sediment deposited by a turbidity current. Article: Turbidites.

Br[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element bromine. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Braided stream[edit | edit source]

A stream or river in which the current repeatedly splits into smaller streams which merge back together and then split again, and so forth. Article: Rivers.

Breccia[edit | edit source]

A rock consisting of large unrounded fragments cemented together. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Faults.

Brittle[edit | edit source]

A material is said to be brittle if with increasing stress it undergoes very little plastic deformation between elastic deformation and shattering. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Brown clay[edit | edit source]

Term occasionally used for pelagic clay. Articles: Pelagic clay, Marine sediments.

C[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element carbon. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radiocarbon dating.

Ca[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element calcium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Calcareous[edit | edit source]

Having to do with calcium carbonate. Articles: Calcareous ooze, Marine sediments.

Calcareous ooze[edit | edit source]

A calcareous sediment found over large areas of the ocean floor, consisting of the shells of small organisms. Articles: Calcareous ooze, Marine sediments.

Calcite[edit | edit source]

A mineral consisting of calcium carbonate in a trigonal crystal system.

Calcium carbonate[edit | edit source]

The chemical CaCO3. Most shells are formed of this, as are the rocks limestone and marble. Articles: Calcareous ooze, Marine sediments.

Carbonate[edit | edit source]

A molecule with the negative ion CO32-; also a rock consisting of carbonates, particularly limestone. Articles: Calcareous ooze, Marine sediments.

Carbonate compensation depth[edit | edit source]

The depth at which calcium carbonate will dissolve faster than it is deposited; hence, the depth below which calcareous ooze will not accumulate. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Carbon dating[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for radiocarbon dating. Article: Radiocarbon dating.

C-C dating[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for radiocarbon dating. Article: Radiocarbon dating.

Carbon dioxide[edit | edit source]

The molecule CO2. A gas at temperatures and pressures found on Earth, and forming 0.038% of the Earth's atmosphere. Article: Chemical weathering.

Carbonic acid[edit | edit source]

The acid H2CO3. Although this is a very weak acid, it is extremely common, because it can be formed from the reaction between carbon dioxide and water. Because of this, it plays an important role in chemical weathering. Article: Chemical weathering.

Cast[edit | edit source]

A fossil produced when a mold is filled with minerals. Article: Fossils.

Cave formation[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for a speleothem. Articles: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

CCD[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for carbonate compensation depth. Article: Calcareous ooze.

14C dating[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for radiocarbon dating. Article: Radiocarbon dating.

Ce[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element cerium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Cementation[edit | edit source]

The binding of clasts together by a finer material, typically silica, calcium carbonate, or iron oxide, to form a clastic rock. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Cemented tuff[edit | edit source]

Volcanic ash which has lithified by the process of cementation, as opposed to welded tuff. Article: Volcanic ash.

Chain silicate[edit | edit source]

A silicate mineral in which the silicate tetrahedra are bonded together in the form of a chain, i.e. each tetrahedron is attached to just two other tetrahedra (except, of course, at each end of the chain). Article: Silicate minerals.

Chalk[edit | edit source]

Rock which, under a microscope, is clearly composed of the tests of calcium carbonate-secreting micro-organisms. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Chemical sediment[edit | edit source]

A chemical sediment is one deposited by precipitation rather than by mechanical processes such as wind or water; or by biological processes such as the growth of coral. Note however that some authors will include biological processes as a subcategory of chemical processes; our articles do not follow this usage. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Chemical weathering[edit | edit source]

Weathering caused by chemical processes (most commonly by some or all of the constituent minerals of a rock being dissolved by carbonic acid); as opposed to mechanical weathering. Article: Chemical weathering.

Chert[edit | edit source]

A sedimentary rock composed of silica, having an amorphous or very fine-grained structure. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Chirality[edit | edit source]

The handedness of an organic molecule. Article: Amino acid dating.

Cirque[edit | edit source]

A large bowl-shaped depression formed at the accumulation point of a valley glacier, with the bowl lacking about a quarter of its rim to let the glacier flow out. Article: Glaciers.

Cl[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element chlorine. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Clast[edit | edit source]

A piece of rock detached by erosion or weathering from a larger rock. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Clastic[edit | edit source]

Composed of clasts. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Clay[edit | edit source]

The term clay can either, depending on the context, refer to a class of sheet aluminosilicate minerals, or to clasts with a diameter of less than 1/256 mm. As clay in the second sense is usually also clay in the first sense, this causes less confusion than you might think. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Claystone[edit | edit source]

Sedimentary rock composed of clay. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Climate[edit | edit source]

Broad trends in the weather; i.e. the tendency of a location to be hot and humid, or dry and cold. Article: Paleoclimatology: introduction.

Closure[edit | edit source]

The point at which snow has been so far compacted into ice that the air trapped in it is completely sealed off from the atmosphere. Article: Ice cores.

Closure time[edit | edit source]

The time between snowfall and closure, varying from location to location. Article: Ice cores.

Coal[edit | edit source]

Coal is peat which has been lithified by compaction, heat, or both. Article: Peat and coal.

Coalification[edit | edit source]

The chemical processes by which peat is turned into coal. Article: Peat and coal.

Coarse-grained[edit | edit source]

Composed of crystals of large size; the opposite of fine-grained. Article: Igneous rocks.

Cobble[edit | edit source]

A clast between 64 and 256mm in diameter, especially one that exhibits rounding. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Rivers.

Coccolith[edit | edit source]

A calcareous plate forming part of the shell of a coccolithophore; a common constituent of calcareous ooze. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Coccolithophores[edit | edit source]

A group of micro-organisms clad in coccoliths. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Compaction[edit | edit source]

Decrease in volume of sediment, caused by the pressure induced by being buried under yet more sediment. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Ice cores.

Complacent[edit | edit source]

A tree is said to be complacent if the thickness of its growth rings is unaffected by annual variations in temperature. Article: Dendrochronology.

Compression[edit | edit source]

Stress that produces shortening of a solid along the direction in which force is applied. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Concordant[edit | edit source]

Of dates, in agreement with one another. Articles: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating, Absolute dating: an overview.

Conglomerate[edit | edit source]

A conglomerate is a rock consisting of large clasts (pebble-sized or larger) cemented together; it is common usage (which we have followed in this text) to use the term to imply that the clasts are rounded, as distinct from a breccia. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Conodont[edit | edit source]

Term used ambiguously to refer either to a conodont animal or a conodont structure; context usually makes it clear which. Article: Fossils.

Conodont animals[edit | edit source]

A group of extinct primitive chordates having no hard parts except for conodont structures. Article: Fossils.

Conodont structures[edit | edit source]

The hard parts of a conodont animal. Article: Fossils.

Contact metamorphism[edit | edit source]

Metamorphism caused by close proximity to a source of heat, such as an intrusion of magma; as opposed to regional metamorphism. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Continental drift[edit | edit source]

The theory that continents have shifted their positions over time; now subsumed into the theory of plate tectonics. Article: Continental drift.

Continental glacier[edit | edit source]

A glacier covering a large area and flowing outwards from its accumulation zone under the pressure of its own weight, as distinct from a valley glacier. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages.

Continental margin[edit | edit source]

The continental shelf, slope, and rise. Article: Marine sediments.

Continental rise[edit | edit source]

The shallowly sloping (approximately 1 degree from horizontal) terrain between the continental slope and the abyssal plain. Article: Marine sediments.

Continental shelf[edit | edit source]

That part of a continent which is underwater, lying between the unsubmerged portion of a continent and the continental slope. Article: Marine sediments.

Continental slope[edit | edit source]

A shallow slope, typically between 4 and 10 degrees from horizontal, found between the continental shelf and the continental rise. Article: Marine sediments.

Corals[edit | edit source]

A group of marine organisms. Hard corals secrete skeletons of calcium carbonate and so act as reef-forming organisms. Article: Reefs.

Core[edit | edit source]

The innermost 3,400 km of the Earth, composed mainly of iron. Article: Structure of the Earth.

or

A sample of ice or rock recovered from the Earth's crust by drilling. Article: Ice cores.

Cosmic dust[edit | edit source]

Dust fallen from outer space, i.e. micrometorites. Although they can be found in pretty much all kinds of sediment, they are proportionally most abundant in pelagic clay due to its slow rate of deposition. Article: Pelagic clay.

Cosmic rays[edit | edit source]

Streams of high-energy particles which bombard the Earth from outer space. Article: Cosmogenic surface dating.

Cosmogenic[edit | edit source]

Of isotopes, produced by cosmic rays. Articles: Cosmogenic surface dating, Radiocarbon dating.

Cosmogenic surface dating[edit | edit source]

A method of absolute dating which gives the time since a rock became exposed on the surface. Article: Cosmogenic surface dating.

Country rock[edit | edit source]

The rock into which an igneous rock intrudes. Article: Igneous rocks.

Covalent bond[edit | edit source]

A bond between atoms in which they share electrons. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Creep[edit | edit source]

Transport of clasts by wind or water by means of rolling them along the ground, river bed, sea bed, etc. Articles: Mechanical weathering and erosion, Rivers.

Cross-bedding[edit | edit source]

Bedding in which the beds, instead of being deposited horizontally, are deposited at an angle, as a result of deposition by a current of wind or water; in the simplest case, where the current has a continuous direction, the beds will have a downward slope in the direction of the current. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Deserts, Rivers, Deltas, Nearshore sediments, Way-up structures, Paleocurrents.

Cross-cutting[edit | edit source]

An igneous rock such as a dike which cuts through the beds of country rock is said to be cross-cutting. Article: Cross-cutting relationships.

Crossdating[edit | edit source]

The correlation of dates from different sources. Article: Dendrochronology.

Crust[edit | edit source]

The upper layer of the Earth, varying from about 5 - 50 km thick, distinct from the mantle by having a different chemical composition, being composed of less dense and more felsic rocks. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Crystal[edit | edit source]

A large molecule composed of smaller chemical units chemically bonded together in a regular repetitive arrangement. Article: Minerals.

Crystal habit[edit | edit source]

The shape or shapes in which a mineral will typically grow. Article: Minerals.

Crystal system[edit | edit source]

One of the seven basic geometrical arrangements in which the atoms of a crystal can be arranged: triclinic, monoclinic, orthorhombic, tetragonal, trigonal, hexagonal or cubic. Article: Minerals.

Curie temperature[edit | edit source]

Very roughly speaking, the temperature above which a material cannot be magnetized and below which it can. Article: Geomagnetic reversals.

Cyclosilicate[edit | edit source]

A synonym for ring silicate. Article: Silicate minerals.

δ18O[edit | edit source]

A proxy for temperature based on oxygen isotope ratios. Articles: Scleroclimatology, Ice cores.

Decay[edit | edit source]

The destruction of organic remains by organic processes. Articles: Peat and coal, Soils and paleosols, Fossils.

or

Radioactive decay. Articles: Radioactive decay.

Decay chain[edit | edit source]

A sequence of events in which one isotope decays to another via an intermediate sequence of unstable isotopes. Article: Radioactive decay.

Deflation[edit | edit source]

The erosion of fine particles from dry soil by the wind. Article: Deserts.

Deflation lake[edit | edit source]

A lake caused when deflation has caused a hollow the bottom of which lies below the water table. Article: Deserts.

Delta[edit | edit source]

The body of sediment deposited when a river flows into a lake or the sea. Article: Deltas.

Dendrochronology[edit | edit source]

A method of dating wood by studying the annual growth rings produced by the tree. Article: Dendrochronology.

Deposition[edit | edit source]

All those processes which add sediment to a surface; the opposite of erosion. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Desert[edit | edit source]

An area of exceptionally low rainfall. Note that although the stereotypical desert is hot and sandy, in geological terms a desert is defined solely by a shortage of rain or snow. Article: Deserts.

Desert pavement[edit | edit source]

A stony surface often found in deserts. Article: Deserts.

Dessication crack[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for a mud crack. Article: Way-up structures.

Detrital[edit | edit source]

Composed of clasts; synonymous with clastic. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Dextral[edit | edit source]

A fault is said to be dextral if someone standing on one side of the fault and looking at the other when there is motion along the fault would see the other side moving to the right. Article: Faults.

Diamond anvil cell[edit | edit source]

A device used in experimental petrology to subject small samples of rock to large amounts of stress. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Diapir[edit | edit source]

A sedimentary structure formed by one type of sediment flowing upwards through another as a result of pressure. Article: Way-up structures.

Diatomite[edit | edit source]

A very light and porous rock formed from diatom tests that have undergone little in the way of compaction and recrystallization. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Diatoms[edit | edit source]

A group of single-celled algae which produce siliceous tests; a major source of siliceous ooze. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Differentiation[edit | edit source]

The mechanism by which an originally homogeneous Earth separated into crust, mantle, and core. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Dike[edit | edit source]

A vertical or near-vertical sheet of igneous rock which intrudes into the country rock. Articles: Igneous rocks, Cross-cutting relationships, Igneous rocks and stratigraphy, Ophiolites.

Dip-slip fault[edit | edit source]

A fault in which much of the motion of the rocks on either side of the fault is vertical: hence either a normal fault or a reverse fault. Article: Faults.

Disconformity[edit | edit source]

An unconformity in which the underlying strata are parallel with the overlying strata. Article: Unconformities.

Dissolved[edit | edit source]

A substance (a solute) is said to be dissolved in another substance (a solvent) if it is mixed with it in such a way as to acquire the phase of the solvent. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Chemical weathering.

Distributary[edit | edit source]

A smaller stream flowing out of a larger river, as opposed to a tributary, which flows in. Article: Rivers.

Diurnal[edit | edit source]

Occurring once daily. Article: Tidal rhythmites and dating.

Docking[edit | edit source]

The union of a terrane with the landmass to which it becomes attached. Article: Terranes.

Drag fold[edit | edit source]

A structure formed in a rock as friction drags the material in it backwards relative to its motion along a fault. Article: Folds.

Drift[edit | edit source]

Any sediment deposited by a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Drifters[edit | edit source]

Term for the early supporters of continental drift; the opposite of "fixists". Article: Continental drift.

Dropstone[edit | edit source]

A stone which has traveled out to sea on a "raft" of ablated glacial ice, and has been deposited when the ice melted. Articles: Glaciers, Glacial marine sediment.

Drumlin[edit | edit source]

A smallish hill shaped somewhat like the back of a spoon, deposited by glaciers in a manner not fully understood. Article: Glaciers.

Ductile[edit | edit source]

A material is said to be ductile if, under stress, it will undergo a great deal of plastic deformation before it breaks. The opposite of brittle. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Dune[edit | edit source]

A mound of sand formed by the action of wind or water. Articles: Rivers, Deserts.

Dunnite[edit | edit source]

An ultramafic rock consisting entirely of olivine. Article: Igneous rocks.

Elastic[edit | edit source]

A material is said to be elastic if it recovers from stress: that is, if when the stress is removed it returns to its original conformation. The opposite of plastic. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Electron[edit | edit source]

A particle with negative charge and negligible mass found orbiting the nucleus of an atom. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Electron capture[edit | edit source]

A form of radioactive decay in which of the radioactive atom's own electrons combines with one of its protons, converting the proton into a neutron. Article: Radioactive decay.

Electron shell[edit | edit source]

An orbit followed by electrons about an atomic nucleus. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, K-Ar dating, Ar-Ar dating.

Element[edit | edit source]

Atoms are classified into elements according to their atomic numbers, which determine their chemical properties; this is a broader classification then the division into isotopes, which also takes into account their atomic weights. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Enantiomers[edit | edit source]

Molecules which are mirror images of one another. Article: Amino acid dating.

Entire margins[edit | edit source]

Leaf margins which are smooth rather than serrated, characteristic of warm humid climates. Article: Leaf shape and temperature.

Epicenter[edit | edit source]

The point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. Article: Seismic waves.

Erg[edit | edit source]

A sandy desert. Article: Deserts.

Erosion[edit | edit source]

Any process capable of breaking up rocks or soils and transporting the resulting clasts. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Erratic boulder[edit | edit source]

A boulder which does not fit in with the geology of its surroundings, transported from its place of origin by a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Evaporite[edit | edit source]

Any chemical sedimentary rock the precipitation of which was produced by the partial or complete evaporation of the water containing the dissolved minerals or which the rock is composed. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Deserts, Saline giants.

Event horizon[edit | edit source]

An extensive geological feature all of which was laid down at exactly the same time; e.g. volcanic ash from a single volcanic eruption. Article: Volcanic ash.

Evolution[edit | edit source]

In biology, heritable change in a line of descent. Outside of biology, the term may be used colloquially to refer to any sort of change or development, as in (for example) "the evolution of jazz from ragtime". Article: Principle of faunal succession.

Excess argon[edit | edit source]

Argon which is not radiogenic; a potential source of error in Ar-Ar dating. Articles: K-Ar dating, Ar-Ar dating.

Exponential decay[edit | edit source]

A quantity is said to undergo exponential decay if its magnitude as a function of time t can be expressed in the form ab-ct. Article: Radioactive decay.

Extrusive rock[edit | edit source]

Any igneous rock formed by lava pouring out on the surface (where the "surface" includes on the sea floor, under a glacier, or anywhere except under rock) as opposed to intrusive rock, which remains trapped within the country rock into which it intrudes. Extrusive rock can be distinguished from intrusive rock by its larger crystal size. Article: Igneous rocks.

Facies[edit | edit source]

A facies is a body of sediment or sedimentary rock characteristic of a particular depositional environment. Article: Walther's principle.

Fault[edit | edit source]

A planar fracture or discontinuity in a volume of rock. Articles: Faults, Terranes.

Fault breccia[edit | edit source]

Breccia produced by the crushing action of motion along a fault. Article: Faults.

Fault gouge[edit | edit source]

Material similar to fault breccia but finer in texture. Article: Faults.

Fault mirror[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for slickenside. Article: Faults.

Fauna[edit | edit source]

Animals (in the broadest possible sense, including birds, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc). Article: Principle of faunal succession.

Fe[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element iron. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Feldspar[edit | edit source]

A group of aluminosilicate minerals with a lattice structure. Article: Igneous rocks.

Felsic rocks[edit | edit source]

Rocks which are high in silica and feldspar and low in magnesium and iron. The opposite of mafic rocks. Article: Igneous rocks.

Fine-grained[edit | edit source]

Composed of crystals or clasts of small size; the opposite of coarse-grained. Article: Igneous rocks.

Fining-up sequence[edit | edit source]

A form of grading upwards from coarse to fine sediments associated with rivers. Article: Rivers.

Firn[edit | edit source]

Snow which has compacted, but not so far as to become ice. Article: Ice cores.

Fissile[edit | edit source]

Of a rock, having the property of splitting easily in a given direction (e.g. between bedding planes). Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Fission track dating[edit | edit source]

A form of absolute dating which involves counting the fission tracks in a rock. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Fission tracks[edit | edit source]

Microscopic scars left in minerals by alpha particles. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Fixist[edit | edit source]

Term for the early opponents of continental drift; the opposite of "drifter". Article: Continental drift.

Flame structure[edit | edit source]

A sedimentary structure formed when a denser sediment (typically sand) is deposited on top of a less dense sediment (typically mud) which then penetrates it by seeping upwards; hence, a kind of small diapir. Article: Way-up structures.

Flaser deposits[edit | edit source]

Deposits in which light and heavy sediments alternate, characteristic of nearshore environments. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Flood plain[edit | edit source]

The flattened, sediment-rich area formed by the action of rivers on a landscape. Article: Rivers.

Flume[edit | edit source]

An artificial channel used by geologists to study the transport of sediment by water in the laboratory. Articles: Rivers.

Fluvial[edit | edit source]

Having to do with rivers. Article: Rivers.

Focus[edit | edit source]

The point in the Earth at which an earthquake originates. Article: Seismic waves.

Foliation[edit | edit source]

The arrangement of sheet silicates in parallel planes in some metamorphic rocks, due to pressure causing realignment of the sheets in planes at right angles to the direction of pressure. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Foot wall[edit | edit source]

Rocks lying above a dip-slip or oblique fault. Article: Faults.

Foram[edit | edit source]

Short form of foraminiferan. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Foraminiferans[edit | edit source]

A group of micro-organisms which secrete calcareous tests; one of the most common constituents of calcareous ooze. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Foreset beds[edit | edit source]

Beds of sediment sloping down at the front of a delta into the sea or lake into which it discharges. Article: Deltas.

Foreshore[edit | edit source]

That part of the nearshore which is uncovered at high tide. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Fossil[edit | edit source]

Organic remains, or traces of organic activity such as footprints, preserved in the geological record. Article: Fossils.

Gabbro[edit | edit source]

Mafic intrusive igneous rock; the intrusive equivalent of basalt. Article: Igneous rocks.

GCM[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for general circulation model. Article: Climate models.

GDGTs[edit | edit source]

Glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraethers, organic molecules produced by the single-celled organisms known as Crenarchaeota, used in the TEX86 temperature proxy. Article: TEX86.

General circulation model[edit | edit source]

A climate model which takes into account both the atmospheric and the oceanic circulation. Article: Climate models.

Geological column[edit | edit source]

A table showing the order of the faunal succession in the fossil record. Article: Geological column.

Geomagnetic reversal[edit | edit source]

A change in state from normal polarity to reversed polarity, or vice versa. Articles: Geomagnetic reversals, Paleomagnetic dating.

Geopetal structure[edit | edit source]

A structure formed when a hollow object is partially filled with sediment, allowing us to use it as a way-up structure. Article: Way-up structures.

Glacial[edit | edit source]

Having to do with glaciers. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages, Glacial marine sediment, Ice cores.

Glacial outwash[edit | edit source]

Sediment carried out of a glacier by meltwater. Article: Glaciers.

Glacial polish[edit | edit source]

The smooth (but striated) surface produced on a rock by the polishing action of a glacier passing over it. Article: Glaciers.

Glaciation[edit | edit source]

Synonym for ice age. Article: Ice ages.

Glacier[edit | edit source]

A moving mass of ice. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages, Glacial marine sediment, Ice cores.

Glass[edit | edit source]

Any igneous rock with an amorphous structure, produced by lava cooling too fast to allow the formation of crystals. Articles: Rocks, Volcanic ash.

Global Positioning System[edit | edit source]

A method for finding one's location on the surface of the Earth; used in geology to measure the motion of plates. Article: Continental drift.

Gneiss[edit | edit source]

A metamorphic rock of high grade with a distinctive streaky appearance produced by the separation out of chain silicates into streaks. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

GOE[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for Great Oxygen Event. Article: Banded iron formations.

Goethite[edit | edit source]

The iron oxide mineral FeO(OH). Articles: Deserts, Banded iron formations.

GPS[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for Global Positioning System. Article: Continental drift.

Grade[edit | edit source]

The degree to which a rock has undergone metamorphism, depending on the amount of heat to which it has been exposed. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Grading[edit | edit source]

Change in size of clasts between two points; most typically from large clasts at the bottom of a layer to small clasts at the top. Articles: Turbidites, Way-up structures.

Grainflow lamina[edit | edit source]

A lamina formed in sand dunes when sand at the crest of the dune avalanches down the lee face of the dune. Article: Deserts.

Granite[edit | edit source]

A felsic intrusive igneous rock; the intrusive counterpart of rhyolite. Article: Igneous rocks.

Gravel[edit | edit source]

Sediment consisting of clasts 2mm in diameter and upwards. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Greenhouse gas[edit | edit source]

A gas such as carbon dioxide or methane which helps keep the Earth warm by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Article: Ice ages.

Greywacke[edit | edit source]

Sandstone consisting of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments embedded in a clay matrix. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Ground mass[edit | edit source]

Finer material in which larger clasts (in the case of sedimentary rock) or crystals (in the case of igneous rock) are embedded. A synonym for matrix. Article: Igneous rocks.

Group[edit | edit source]

In chemistry, elements which lie in the same column of the periodic table, with similar chemical properties as a result of having similar situations in their outer electron shells. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Growth ring[edit | edit source]

A layer of wood produced by a tree on an annual basis, used in dendrochronology. Articles: Dendrochronology, Dendroclimatology.

Gypsum[edit | edit source]

A mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate (CaSO4.H2O) with a monoclinic crystal system. Article: Saline giants.

H[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element hydrogen. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Half-life[edit | edit source]

The half-life of an isotope is the length of time in which an atom of that isotope has a 50% chance of undergoing radioactive decay. Article: Radioactive decay.

Halite[edit | edit source]

Rock salt (NaCl). Article: Saline giants.

Hallam curve[edit | edit source]

A reconstruction of past variations of sea level based on sedimentary evidence of transgressions and regressions. Article: Sea level variations.

Hanging wall[edit | edit source]

Rocks lying above a dip-slip or oblique fault. Article: Faults.

Hematite[edit | edit source]

The iron oxide mineral Fe2O3. Articles: Deserts, Banded iron formations.

Herringbone crossbedding[edit | edit source]

A form of cross-bedding in which the direction of slope alternates, as a result of oscillatory flow. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Hf[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element hafnium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Hoodoo[edit | edit source]

A pillar of rock produced by erosion. Article: Steno's principles.

Horizon[edit | edit source]

A distinct layer in a soil, formed by pedogenetic processes. Article: Soils and paleosols.

Hornfels[edit | edit source]

A large group of metamorphic rocks produced from sedimentary rocks by contact metamorphism. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Hotspot[edit | edit source]

A stationary point of high volcanic activity above which plates pass, creating an aseismic ridge. Article: Hotspots.

Humus[edit | edit source]

Decaying organic matter in soil. Article: Soils and paleosols.

Humic coal[edit | edit source]

Coal produced by the deposition of land plants in swamps, as opposed to sapropelic coal. Article: Peat and coal.

Hydrothermal[edit | edit source]

Having to do with hot water. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Ice age[edit | edit source]

A time at which sheet glaciers are present on some regions of the Earth's surface. Article: Ice ages.

Ice sheet[edit | edit source]

Synonym for continental glacier. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages.

Igneous rock[edit | edit source]

Rock formed by the cooling of lava (in which case the rock is said to be extrusive) or magma (in which case the rock is said to be intrusive). igneous rocks can also be classified by their mineral composition from felsic to ultramafic. Article: Igneous rocks.

Index fossil[edit | edit source]

A fossil of a species that was sufficiently widely distributed that its fossils can be used to correlate the deposition of fossils and sediments in widely separated locations. Articles: Index fossils, Fossils and absolute dating.

Index mineral[edit | edit source]

Any mineral which forms only at certain temperatures and pressures, and which can therefore be used as an index to the conditions under which certain metamorphic rocks were formed. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Index species[edit | edit source]

A species suitable for the production of index fossils. Article: Index fossils.

Inert[edit | edit source]

Of an element, unable to participate in chemical reactions. Article: K-Ar dating.

Inosilicate[edit | edit source]

A synonym for chain silicate. Article: Silicate minerals.

Insolation[edit | edit source]

The quantity per area of solar radiation reaching a given location. Articles: Milankovitch cycles, Climate models.

Insoluble[edit | edit source]

Incapable of becoming dissolved. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Interference ripples[edit | edit source]

Ripples caused by two currents flowing (one after the other) at or near right-angles to one another. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Interglacial[edit | edit source]

A time of glacial retreat during an ice age. Article: Ice ages.

Interfingering[edit | edit source]

A complex pattern of sediments in which different sedimentary types (e.g. sand and mud) interpenetrate in interlocking wedges broadly similar to the pattern made by the fingers of two hands laced together. Article: Deltas.

Internal drainage[edit | edit source]

A drainage pattern typical of deserts, in which rivers flow into the desert and evaporate. Article: Deserts.

Intrusive rock[edit | edit source]

Rock formed by magma penetrating country rock but not reaching the surface as lava. As the magma will cool slowly, intrusive rock can be distinguished from extrusive rock by the relatively large size of the crystals of which the former is composed. Such rock is said to intrude into the country rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Inverse grading[edit | edit source]

Grading where the size of clasts varies from small clasts at the bottom of a layer to large clasts at the top. Article: Turbidites.

Ion[edit | edit source]

An atom which has gained or lost electrons, giving it a negative or positive charge respectively. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Ionic bond[edit | edit source]

A bond between atoms in which one atom donates electrons to another. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Iron oxides[edit | edit source]

Minerals containing both iron and oxygen, as the name suggests: examples include hematite and goethite. Articles: Deserts, Banded iron formations.

Isochron dating[edit | edit source]

A form of radiometric dating involving the construction of an isochron diagram. Articles: Rb-Sr dating, Other isochron methods.

Issochron diagram[edit | edit source]

A graph showing the isotope ratios of various minerals found in the same rock, used in isochron dating. Articles: Rb-Sr dating, Other isochron methods.

Isostatic rebound[edit | edit source]

The process whereby land which has formerly been depressed by overlying weight (for example of an ice sheet) rises when the weight is removed. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages.

Isotope[edit | edit source]

Atoms are classified into isotopes according to their atomic number and their atomic weight. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

K[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element potassium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, K-Ar dating.

K-Ar dating[edit | edit source]

Potassium-argon dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: K-Ar dating.

Karst topography[edit | edit source]

The distinctive landscape produced by the chemical weathering of limestone. Article: Chemical weathering.

K-Ca dating[edit | edit source]

Potassium-argon dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

Kettle[edit | edit source]

A small lake formed by glacial outwash being deposited around a largish chunk of ice left behind by a retreating glacier; when the residual chunk of ice melts, this leaves a depression which will typically fill with water, producing a kettle. Article: Glaciers.

La[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element lanthanum. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

La-Ba dating[edit | edit source]

Lanthanum-barium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

La-Ce dating[edit | edit source]

Lanthanum-cerium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

Lacolith[edit | edit source]

An intrusion between two strata, similar to a sill but thicker and lens-shaped. Article: Igneous rocks.

Lacustrine[edit | edit source]

Having to do with lakes. Article: Lakes.

Lake[edit | edit source]

An inland body of water fed by rivers, streams, or sometimes by seepage of groundwater. Article: Lakes.

Lamina[edit | edit source]

A very thin bed, no more than a few millimeters thick. Article: Deserts.

Lateral moraine[edit | edit source]

Sediment which accumulates along the sides of a valley glacier, having fallen or been scraped off the walls of the valley. Article: Glaciers.

Laterite[edit | edit source]

A soil type characteristic of a tropical climate alternating between a monsoon season and a dry season. Article: Sediments and climate.

Lattice silicates[edit | edit source]

Silicate minerals in which the silicate tetrahedra are bonded together to form a three-dimensional lattice. Article: Silicate minerals.

Lava[edit | edit source]

Molten rock which has reached the surface, as opposed to magma, which is sill trapped beneath it. Article: Igneous rocks.

Lava flow[edit | edit source]

Igneous rock formed by lava flowing on the surface.

Leached ions[edit | edit source]

Ions dissolved in water as a result of chemical weathering; as opposed to residual minerals. Article: Chemical weathering.

Lee[edit | edit source]

The side of a mountain, dune, antidune, or generally any hill-shaped geological feature, which is on the down-stream side of a current of wind or water. The opposite of stoss. Article: Rivers.

LGM[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for last glacial maximum. Article: Climate models.

Lignite[edit | edit source]

The softest form of coal; the next stage in the formation of coal from peat after peat itself. Article: Peat and coal.

Limestone[edit | edit source]

Rock formed from calcium carbonate, usually in the form of calcite. Article: Calcareous ooze.

Limiting stand[edit | edit source]

Trees the growth of which we would expect to be limited by a single factor (such as temperature) because they grow in an environment with an abundant supply of other factors necessary for growth (such as rainfall). Article: Dendroclimatology.

Lineation[edit | edit source]

The arrangement of chain silicates in parallel lines in certain metamorphic rocks formed under pressure: the pressure forces these silicates to orientate themselves at right-angles to the direction of pressure. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Lithification[edit | edit source]

The conversion of sediment into a sedimentary rock by such processes as compaction and cementation. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Lithosphere[edit | edit source]

The Earth's crust together with that portion of the mantle which, like the crust, is brittle and elastic rather than plastic and ductile. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Littoral[edit | edit source]

Having to do with the coast. Article: Index fossils.

Loess[edit | edit source]

Fine wind-borne sediment produced by the action of glaciers. Article: Ice cores.

Longshore bars[edit | edit source]

Bars of sediment running parallel to a beach. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Longshore current[edit | edit source]

The component of a nearshore current that flows parallel to the shoreline. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Longshore drift[edit | edit source]

The motion of sediment along the shore as a result of the fact that waves that approach the shore obliquely will recede from it at right-angles to the shoreline. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Love waves[edit | edit source]

A type of seismic wave which travels along the surface of the Earth rather than through it. Article: Seismic waves.

Lu[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element lutetium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Lu-Hf dating[edit | edit source]

Lutetium-hafnium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

Mafic rock[edit | edit source]

A rock rich in magnesium and iron, and poor in quartz and feldspar. Article: Igneous rocks.

Magma[edit | edit source]

Molten rock which has not reached the surface, as opposed to lava. Some authors will define magma as any molten rock, in which case it would be proper to say that "lava is magma on the surface". However, in this text I have preferred the usage which makes magma and lava two distinct non-overlapping categories of molten rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Mantle[edit | edit source]

A zone of ultramafic rock lying below the Earth's crust and above its core. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Mantle plume[edit | edit source]

A column of hot rock rising in the mantle below a hotspot. Article: Hotspots.

Marble[edit | edit source]

A metamorphic rock formed by the metamorphism of limestone. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Massive rock[edit | edit source]

Rock which does not display bedding (in the case of sedimentary rocks) or foliation (in the case of metamorphic rocks), giving the rock a uniform and homogeneous appearance. This term is not used in our articles, so as to avoid confusion with the common use of "massive" to mean "very big"; we have instead used more transparent terms such as "unbedded". Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Mass wasting[edit | edit source]

Erosion caused by gravity. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Matrix[edit | edit source]

Finer material in which larger clasts (in the case of sedimentary rock) or crystals (in the case of igneous rock) are embedded. A synonym for groundmass. Article: Igneous rocks.

Meander[edit | edit source]

A broad loop in a stream or river. Article: Rivers.

Meandering stream[edit | edit source]

A stream which flows in a series of meanders. Article: Rivers.

Mechanical weathering[edit | edit source]

Weathering caused by mechanical processes that break up a rock, as opposed to chemical weathering. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Medial moraine[edit | edit source]

A moraine formed by the union of two lateral moraines when two valley glaciers flow together to forms a single glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Metamorphic grade[edit | edit source]

The degree of metamorphism undergone by a metamorphic rock. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Metamorphic rock[edit | edit source]

A rock which has had its texture or composition changed by heat and/or pressure. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Metamorphism[edit | edit source]

Changes in the texture or composition of a rock brought about by heat and/or pressure. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Metasomatism[edit | edit source]

Changes associated with contact metamorphism in which the parent rock mixes and/or reacts with the intrusive igneous rock and the hot fluids associated with its eruption. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Methane[edit | edit source]

The gas CH4, a potent greenhouse gas. Article: Ice ages.

Mg[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element magnesium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Mica[edit | edit source]

A group of sheet aluminosilicate minerals. Articles: Igneous rocks, Metamorphic rocks.

Mid-ocean ridge[edit | edit source]

Elevated sea-floor on either side of a mid-ocean rift. Articles: Sea floor spreading, Sea level variations.

Mid-ocean rift[edit | edit source]

The rift between two plates at which sea floor spreading occurs. Article: Sea floor spreading.

Milankovitch cycles[edit | edit source]

Periodic changes in the inclination of the Earth's axis and the shape of its orbit. Article: Milankovitch cycles.

Mineral[edit | edit source]

A solid with a particular chemical composition and structure. Articles: Minerals, Silicate minerals.

Mineraloid[edit | edit source]

Anything which is like a mineral in some respects but doesn't quite fit the definition. Article: Minerals.

Mixing plot[edit | edit source]

A graph showing the composition of a rock on which the plotted points will fall in a straight line if the rock was produced by the mixing of different sources of magma. Article: Rb-Sr dating.

Mold[edit | edit source]

A fossil formed when sediment is packed around organic remains, which are then destroyed, leaving a void in the sediment in the shape of the remains. Article: Fossils.

Molecule[edit | edit source]

A collection of atoms bonded together. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Moraine[edit | edit source]

A deposit of till. Article: Glaciers.

Mud crack[edit | edit source]

A small-scale geological structures produced in mud as it dries. Article: Way-up structures.

Mudstone[edit | edit source]

Rock formed from clay or silt which is not bedded: lithified mud which is bedded is known as shale. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Mylonite[edit | edit source]

A rock produced at depth by the ation of two sides of a fault rubbing against one another, having a distinctive "grain" indicating the direction of motion of the fault. Article: Faults.

Na[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element sodium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Nd[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element neodymium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Ne[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element neon. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Nearshore[edit | edit source]

The zone in which the sea bed is affected by waves. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Neosilicate[edit | edit source]

A silicate mineral in which the silicate tetrahedra are isolated from one another. Article: Silicate minerals.

Neutron[edit | edit source]

A particle with no charge and approximately the same mass as a proton; together with protons, neutrons make up the nucleus of an atom. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Nonconformity[edit | edit source]

An unconformity in which the older rocks are igneous or metamorphic. Article: Unconformities.

Normal fault[edit | edit source]

A dip-slip fault in which the hanging wall moves downwards relative to the foot wall. Article: Faults.

Normal polarity[edit | edit source]

The polarity of the Earth's magnetic field as it is at present. (Note that there is nothing particularly normal about this state of affairs.) The opposite of reversed polarity. Article: Geomagnetic reversals.

Nucleus[edit | edit source]

A fragment of shell or stone around which an ooid forms. Article: Ooids and oolite.

or

The core of an atom, consisting of protons and neutrons. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

O[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element oxygen. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Banded iron formations.

Oasis[edit | edit source]

A small lake found in a desert. Article: Deserts.

Obduction[edit | edit source]

A process in which one platecolliding with another is thrust over it instead of beneath it; the opposite of subduction. Article: Ophiolites.

Oblique fault[edit | edit source]

A fault which combines elements of a dip-slip fault and a strike-slip fault. Article: Faults.

Obsidian[edit | edit source]

Felsic volcanic glass. Article: Igneous rocks.

Olivine[edit | edit source]

A silicate mineral with the chemical formula (Mg,Fe)2SiO4 and an orthorhombic crystal system. Articles: Minerals, Igneous rocks, Structure of the Earth.

Ooid[edit | edit source]

A small roughly spherical particle consisting of calcium carbonate layers formed around a nucleus of sand or shell. Required the action of waves for formation, and is therefore formed in shallow seas. Article: Ooids and oolite.

Oolite[edit | edit source]

Limestone composed of ooids cemented together. Article: Ooids and oolite.

Oolith[edit | edit source]

Either a rock formed from ooids, or a single ooid, depending on context. Article: Ooids and oolite.

Oolitic limestone[edit | edit source]

Synonym for oolite. Article: Ooids and oolite.

Opal[edit | edit source]

Amorphous hydrated silica, of which the precious stone known as opal is only one particularly pretty example. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Opal compensation depth[edit | edit source]

The depth at which siliceous material will dissolve faster than it is deposited; hence, the depth below which marine chert will not form. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Ophiolite[edit | edit source]

A section of oceanic crust which has been thrust up above sea-level. Article: Ophiolites.

Orthosilicate[edit | edit source]

A synonym for neosilicate. Article: Silicate minerals.

Orogeny[edit | edit source]

The formation of mountains; or the faulting and folding of a large area by lateral pressure; or the formation of mountains by this process. Article: Orogeny.

Os[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element osmium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Oscillatory flow[edit | edit source]

The washing back and forth of water on the foreshore as a result of the action of the tide. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Outwash[edit | edit source]

Light sediment carried by meltwater from the ablation zone of a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Outwash plain[edit | edit source]

A flat area of outwash sediment in front of a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Oxbow lake[edit | edit source]

A crescent-shaped lake formed when a meandering stream changes its course, leaving one of its meanders cut off from the stream. Article: Rivers.

Oxygen catastrophe[edit | edit source]

Synonym for the Great Oxygenation Event Article: Banded iron formations.

Oxygen crisis[edit | edit source]

Synonym for the Great Oxygenation Event Article: Banded iron formations.

Oyster[edit | edit source]

A reef-forming bivalve. Article: Reefs.

Pa[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for pascals.

or

The chemical symbol for the element protactinium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Pahoehoe[edit | edit source]

A type of lava flow, or the cooled and solidified rock produced by it, characterized by a ropey and billowy surface texture. Article: Way-up structures.

Paleoclimatology[edit | edit source]

The study of ancient climates. Article: Paleoclimatology: introduction.

Paleocurrents[edit | edit source]

Ancient currents of wind and water the direction of which can be deduced from the analysis of sedimentary rocks. Article: Paleocurrents.

Paleomagnetic dating[edit | edit source]

A form of absolute dating based on analysis of the paleomagnetic data in the rocks. Article: Paleomagnetic dating.

Paleomagnetism[edit | edit source]

The geological record of the past history of the Earth's magnetic field. Articles: Geomagnetic reversals, Sea floor spreading, Paleomagnetic dating.

Paleosol[edit | edit source]

Fossilized soil. Article: Soils and paleosols.

Pangaea[edit | edit source]

The last supercontinent to exist, prior to its rifting and the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. Article: Continental drift.

Pannotia[edit | edit source]

A supercontinent that existed before Pangea. Article: Continental drift.

Paraconformity[edit | edit source]

An unconformity without an erosional surface. Article: Unconformities.

Parent isotope[edit | edit source]

A radioactive isotope which undergoes radioactive decay to produce a daughter isotope. Article: Radioactive decay.

Parent rock[edit | edit source]

The original rock from which a metamorphic rock is formed by metamorphism. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Pascal[edit | edit source]

Unit of stress: 1 pascal = 1 newton/square meter. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Pb[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element lead. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Pb-Pb dating[edit | edit source]

Lead-lead dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Peat[edit | edit source]

Waterlogged and partially decomposed vegetable matter. Note that in geological usage peat does not just refer to gardeners' peat (formed from sphagnum moss) but to any vegetable matter that has undergone peatification. Peat is the sediment from which coal is formed. Article: Peat and coal.

Peatification[edit | edit source]

The partial decomposition of waterlogged vegetable matter, turning it into peat. Article: Peat and coal.

Pedogenesis[edit | edit source]

The process of turning sediment into soil by chemical weathering and the activity of organisms (plants growing in it, burrowing animals such as worms, the addition of humus etc). Article: Soils and paleosols.

Pelagic[edit | edit source]

Having to do with the open sea. Articles: Marine sediments, Index fossils.

Pelagic clay[edit | edit source]

Fine-textured sediment deposited on the abyssal plain. Articles: Pelagic clay, Marine sediments.

Peridotite[edit | edit source]

An ultramafic igneous rock consisting mainly of olivine with a little pyroxene and amphibole. Article: Igneous rocks.

Periodic table[edit | edit source]

A tabular arrangement of the elements which gives insight into their chemical properties. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Permineralization[edit | edit source]

A process forming mineralized fossils in which the voids in the original material are filled by minerals. Article: Fossils.

Petrification[edit | edit source]

A process forming mineralized fossils in which they undergo both replacement and permineralization. Article: Fossils.

Phaneritic[edit | edit source]

An igneous rock is said to be phaneritic if the crystals in it are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. The opposite of aphenatic. Article: Igneous rocks.

Phase[edit | edit source]

Whether a substance is solid, liquid, or gas; if solid, its crystal structure or lack thereof. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Phenocryst[edit | edit source]

A large crystal embedded in the more finely-grained ground mass of a porphyritic rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Philosophical naturalism[edit | edit source]

The rejection a priori of the existence of the supernatural; a position completely unnecessary to the practice of geology. Article: Actualism.

Phylosilicate[edit | edit source]

A synonym for sheet silicate. Article: Silicate minerals.

Pillow basalt[edit | edit source]

Basalt with a distinctive shape consisting of a set of "pillows"; formed underwater as a result of the more rapid cooling of lava on contact with water. Articles: Igneous rocks, Ophiolites.

Pinstripe lamina[edit | edit source]

A very thin lamina of very fine clasts, formed in and characteristic of aeolian sand dunes. Article: Deserts.

Plastic[edit | edit source]

A material is said to be plastic if it does not recover from stress: that is, having been squeezed by stress into a given form, it retains that form when the stress is removed. The opposite of elastic. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Playa[edit | edit source]

A flat-bottomed basin in a desert which periodically fills with water to form a shallow temporary lake. Article: Deserts.

Plutonic rock[edit | edit source]

Alternative term for intrusive rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Plate[edit | edit source]

A piece of the lithosphere bounded by faults. Articles: Plate tectonics: overview, Sea floor spreading, Subduction, Hotspots, Terranes.

Plate tectonics[edit | edit source]

The study of the motion of the Earth's plates. Articles: Plate tectonics: overview, Sea floor spreading, Subduction, Hotspots, Terranes, Ophiolites, Orogeny.

PMIP[edit | edit source]

The Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project, a project comparing results from climate models with the evidence from paleoclimatic proxies. Article: Climate models.

Point bar[edit | edit source]

A bar of sediment formed on the inner bank of a meander. Article: Rivers.

Polymorph[edit | edit source]

Two minerals having the same chemical formula but a different crystal structure are said to be polymorphs. Article: Minerals.

Pond[edit | edit source]

A small lake. Article: Lakes.

Porphyritic[edit | edit source]

Of a rock, containing some large crystals embedded in a more finely-grained ground mass. Article: Igneous rocks.

Precipitation[edit | edit source]

When a chemical formerly dissolved in water settles out of it as a solid sediment, this is called precipitation. Article: Saline giants.

Prehistoric[edit | edit source]

Preceding written human history; the fairly arbitrary line before which organic remains are considered to be fossils. Article: Fossils.

Primary rock[edit | edit source]

Term sometimes used for igneous rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Principle of cross-cutting relationships[edit | edit source]

The principle that when one geological feature cuts through another, the former is the younger and the latter is the older of the two features. Article: Cross-cutting relationships.

Principle of faunal succession[edit | edit source]

Roughly speaking, the principle that if the fauna and flora in one location are found in one stratigraphic order, the same species will not be found in a different order in another location. Article: Principle of faunal succession.

Principle of least time[edit | edit source]

The principle in physics that a wave traveling through a medium will take the quickest route between two points. Article: Seismic waves.

Principle of original continuity[edit | edit source]

The principle that when sediment is laid down, it will extend continuously until either it meets an obstacle or tapers off with increasing distance from the source of the sediment. Article: Steno's principles.

Principle of original horizontality[edit | edit source]

The principle that when sediment is laid down, it is usually laid down more or less flat. Article: Steno's principles.

Principle of superposition[edit | edit source]

The principle that when sediment is laid down, the sediment most recently deposited will be on the top. Article: Steno's principles.

Proglacial lake[edit | edit source]

A lake fed by meltwater from a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Progradation[edit | edit source]

The building out of a delta into the sea by deposition of sediment. Article: Deltas.

Proton[edit | edit source]

A positively charged particle of about the same mass as the neutron; together with neutrons, protons form the nuclei of atoms. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Radioactive decay.

Proxy[edit | edit source]

A quantity which we can measure which bears a known relationship to a quantity that we can't measure but would like to; for example measuring past oxygen isotope ratios in shellfish as a substitute for measuring past temperatures. Articles: Paleoclimatology: introduction, Leaf shape and temperature, Scleroclimatology, Uk'37, TEX86.

Pseudostratigraphy[edit | edit source]

A term used to describe a situation where rock is layered, but the layers do not represent successive deposition; for example, the layers found in an ophiolite. Article: Ophiolites.

Pumice[edit | edit source]

A form of volcanic glass filled with air bubbles. Article: Igneous rocks.

Pyroclastic flow[edit | edit source]

A current of air laden with volcanic ash, which resists dispersion into the surrounding air because of its greater density. Article: Volcanic ash.

Pyroxene[edit | edit source]

An important group of rock-forming chain silicates. Article: Igneous rocks.

P-waves[edit | edit source]

Body waves consisting of moving zones of compression and tension. Article: Seismic waves.

Quartz[edit | edit source]

A mineral consisting entirely of silicate tetrahedra in a lattice structure, so that each oxygen atom of each tetrahedron is shared with one other tetrahedron, giving quartz the chemical formula SiO2 Articles: Silicate minerals, Igneous rocks.

Quartzite[edit | edit source]

A metamorphic rock formed by metamorphism of quartz sandstone. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Quartz sandstone[edit | edit source]

Sandstone of which the sand grains are almost entirely quartz. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Ra[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element radium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Racemic[edit | edit source]

Composed of equal amounts of both forms of enantiomers. Article: Amino acid dating.

Racemization[edit | edit source]

The process by which a collection of chiral molecules become racemic. Article: Amino acid dating.

Racemization dating[edit | edit source]

An alternative term for amino acid dating. Article: Amino acid dating.

Radioactive[edit | edit source]

Having a tendency to radioactive decay. Article: Radioactive decay.

Radioactive decay[edit | edit source]

Any process by which the composition of the nucleus of an atom is changed, such as alpha decay, beta decay, and electron capture. Article: Radioactive decay.

Radiocarbon dating[edit | edit source]

Radiometric dating of organic material by analysis of the isotopes of carbon it contains. Article: Radiocarbon dating.

Radiogenic[edit | edit source]

An atom is said to be radiogenic if it is the product of radioactive decay. Article: Radioactive decay.

Radiolaria[edit | edit source]

A group of single-celled organisms which produce tiny intricate tests, usually siliceous; these form a major component of siliceous ooze. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Radiometric dating[edit | edit source]

A collection of methods of absolute dating which depend on the constancy of radioactive decay rates. Articles: K-Ar dating, Ar-Ar dating, Rb-Sr dating, Other isochron methods, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating, Radiocarbon dating, Cosmogenic surface dating, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating, Absolute dating: an overview.

Rain shadow[edit | edit source]

A dry area on the lee side of a mountain, caused by the tendency of clouds to burst on the stoss side. Article: Deserts.

Raleigh wave[edit | edit source]

A type of seismic wave which travels on the surface of the Earth rather than through it. Article: Seismic waves.

Rank[edit | edit source]

The degree to which coal has undergone metamorphism. Article: Peat and coal.

Ra-Pb dating[edit | edit source]

Radium-lead dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Rb[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element rubidium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Rb-Sr dating.

Rb-Sr dating[edit | edit source]

Rubidium-strontium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Rb-Sr dating.

Re[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element rhenium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Reaction[edit | edit source]

In chemistry, a process in which molecules form, break apart, or recombine. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Recrystalization[edit | edit source]

Change in the texture of a rock. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Recumbent fold[edit | edit source]

A fold in a rock which has been pushed so far over as to lie on its side. Articles: Orogeny, Folds.

Redbeds[edit | edit source]

Sedimentary rocks cemented together chiefly by iron oxide, characteristic of dry climates. Article: Sediments and climate.

Red clay[edit | edit source]

A synonym sometimes used for pelagic clay. Articles: Pelagic clay, Marine sediments

Reef[edit | edit source]

An underwater ridge or mound formed from the calcareous shells of organisms (typically coral in the present day, but the term is not restricted to coral reefs). Note that the geological usage is more restricted than the nautical usage, in which a sandbar or rock sufficiently near the surface of the water to cause a hazard to shipping would also be considered a reef. Article: Reefs.

Reef limestone[edit | edit source]

Limestone resulting from the intact preservation of hard parts of coral or other organisms. Article: Reefs.

Reflection seismology[edit | edit source]

A method of examining the structure of buried rocks by studying the reflections of Seismic waves produced by artificial explosions. Article: Sea level variations.

Refraction[edit | edit source]

The change of direction undergone by a wave when it passes from a material which permits travel at one speed to a material which permits travel at another speed. A consequence of the principle of least time. Article: Seismic waves.

Regional metamorphism[edit | edit source]

Metamorphism over a wide region, caused by deep burial or wide-acting tectonic forces; as opposed to contact metamorphism. Articles: Metamorphism, Orogeny.

Regression[edit | edit source]

An event in which the shoreline moves in a seaward direction; the opposite of a transgression. Articles: Sea level variations, Walther's principle.

Relative dating[edit | edit source]

Dating methods which allow us to put fossils and/or rocks in order of age, but without telling us how old they are, as opposed to absolute dating, which does. Articles: Steno's principles, Principle of faunal succession, Index fossils, Geological column, Cross-cutting relationships, Igneous rocks and stratigraphy.

Re-Os dating[edit | edit source]

Rhenium-osmium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

Replacement[edit | edit source]

A process forming fossils in which the original organic material is replaced by minerals. Article: Fossils.

Residence time[edit | edit source]

The average amount of time a given type of atom or molecule will spend in the ocean or in the atmosphere. Article: Radiocarbon dating.

Residual minerals[edit | edit source]

Minerals which are not dissolved by chemical weathering. Article: Chemical weathering.

Reversed polarity[edit | edit source]

A condition in which the north and south magnetic poles of the Earth were opposite in orientation to their present position. The opposite of normal polarity. Article: Geomagnetic reversals.

Reverse fault[edit | edit source]

A dip-slip fault in which the hanging wall moves upwards relative to the foot wall. Article: Faults.

Rhyolite[edit | edit source]

A felsic extrusive igneous rock; the extrusive counterpart of granite. Article: Igneous rocks.

Rhythmite[edit | edit source]

A sedimentary rock which display a repetitive vertical succession of types of sediment. Articles: Tidal rhythmites and dating, Varves, Milankovitch cycles.

Ring silicates[edit | edit source]

Silicate minerals in which the silicate tetrahedra are bonded together to form rings. Article: Silicate minerals.

Ripple[edit | edit source]

A very small dune. Article: Rivers.

Roche moutonnée[edit | edit source]

A hump of rock with one side shallow, polished, and striated and the other side steep and ragged, caused by a glacier flowing over the rock. Article: Glaciers.

Rock[edit | edit source]

An aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids. Article: Rocks.

Rock cycle[edit | edit source]

The set of processes by which rocks are formed, altered, destroyed, and reformed. Article: Rocks.

Rock flour[edit | edit source]

Extremely fine sediment formed by the grinding action of a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Rock glacier[edit | edit source]

A glacier consisting mainly of rocks held together by ice. Article: Glaciers.

Rock salt[edit | edit source]

Common salt (NaCl) when it occurs naturally as a rock; a synonym for halite. Articles: Minerals, Saline giants.

Rounding[edit | edit source]

A clast is said to be rounded if its sharp edges and corners have been worn away by erosion. Note that the term does not imply that the clast in question is spherical or near-spherical, just that its shape is smooth. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Rudaceous rocks[edit | edit source]

Term for conglomerates and breccias. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Rudists[edit | edit source]

A group of reef-building molluscs that went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. Article: Reefs.

S[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element sulfur. Article: Chemistry for geologists

Sabkha[edit | edit source]

A salt flat found between the sea and a desert above the high-water line. Article: Deserts.

Saltation[edit | edit source]

The motion of a wind-blown or water-borne clast along the ground, river bed, sea bed, etc, by a series of short hops, when the particle is too large and the current too weak for it to be transported in suspension. Articles: Mechanical weathering and erosion, Rivers.

Salt flat[edit | edit source]

An accumulation of minerals on dry land by the evaporation of water containing dissolved minerals. While the commonest mineral in salt flats is indeed rock salt, other minerals such a gypsum may be deposited. Article: Deserts.

Sand[edit | edit source]

Particles of sediment between 1/16mm and 2mm in diameter. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Sandstone[edit | edit source]

Rock formed by the cementation of sand. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Saprolite[edit | edit source]

Completely weathered rock. Article: Chemical weathering.

Sapropelic coal[edit | edit source]

Coal where the original organic material comes from the deposition of algae in lakes; as opposed to humic coal. Article: Peat and coal.

Satelite Laser Ranging[edit | edit source]

A system in which ground-based observation stations measure the round-trip time of ultrashort pulses of light traveling to and from satelites. Used by geologists to measure plate motion and isostatic rebound. Article: Continental drift.

Schist[edit | edit source]

A high-grade metamorphic rock exhibiting pronounced foliation. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Schistosity[edit | edit source]

The kind of foliation found in schist. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Sclerochronology[edit | edit source]

An absolute dating method based on the study of growth patterns in shells and corals. Article: Sclerochronology.

Scleroclimatology[edit | edit source]

The study of past climates by the analysis of the composition of shells. Article: Scleroclimatology.

Sea floor spreading[edit | edit source]

The motion of two plates away from one another, producing a rift which is continuously filled by magma, producing fresh oceanic crust. Article: Sea floor spreading.

Seaload[edit | edit source]

The sediments carried by a wave. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Seamount[edit | edit source]

A marine mountain which is entirely underwater. Article: Hotspots.

Seat earth[edit | edit source]

The paleosol underlying coal beds. Article: Peat and coal.

Secular equilibrium[edit | edit source]

A condition in which the rate of production of a radioactive isotope in a rock is exactly balanced by the radioactive decay of the same isotope. Article: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Secular variation[edit | edit source]

The wandering of the magnetic poles over time. Article: Geomagnetic reversals.

Sediment[edit | edit source]

Particles transported and/or deposited by wind, water, glaciers, precipitation, etc; the constituents of sedimentary rocks. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Sedimentary rock[edit | edit source]

Sediment lithified by cementation and/or compaction, or as a result of simple crystal growth in the case of evaporites. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Sediment trap[edit | edit source]

A device that collects sediment as it settles. Article: Deposition rates.

Seismic tomography[edit | edit source]

The science of discovering the internal structure of an object (typically, the Earth) by studying the passage of body waves through it. Articles: Seismic waves, Structure of the Earth.

Seismic waves[edit | edit source]

Waves in the body or surface of the Earth generated by earthquakes. Articles: Seismic waves, Structure of the Earth.

Seismometer[edit | edit source]

A device for detecting earthquakes and measuring their properties. Article: Seismic waves.

Semidiurnal[edit | edit source]

Occurring twice daily. Article: Tidal rhythmites and dating.

Series[edit | edit source]

A stratigraphic unit smaller than a system but larger than a stage. Article: Geological column.

Serpentinite[edit | edit source]

A metamorphic rock produced from peridotite in the presence of heat and water. Article: Ophiolites.

Serrated margins[edit | edit source]

Edges of leaves which are not smooth, characteristic of a temperate climate. Article: Leaf shape and temperature.

Shale[edit | edit source]

A sedimentary rock formed from silt or clay which exhibits bedding. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Shear[edit | edit source]

Stress that causes an object to skew, e.g. the stress that would deform a rectangle into a parallelogram. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Sheeted dikes[edit | edit source]

Dikes which stand side by side with one another like books on a shelf rather than intruding into some other rock. Article: Ophiolites.

Sheet glacier[edit | edit source]

Synonym for continental glacier. Articles: Glaciers, Historical Geology/Ice ages.

Sheet silicate[edit | edit source]

Any silicate in which the silicate tetrahedra bond together to form a sheet. Article: Silicate minerals.

Shoestring[edit | edit source]

A geological feature which is long and thin, e.g. a river or a shoreline. Articles: Rivers, Nearshore sediments.

Si[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element silicon. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Silicate minerals.

Siderite[edit | edit source]

The mineral FeCO3. Article: Banded iron formations.

Silica[edit | edit source]

Silicon dioxide, (SiO2). This occurs in many forms, such as quartz, opal, and chert Article: Minerals.

Silicate[edit | edit source]

A shorter way of saying silicate mineral. Article: Silicate minerals.

Silicate mineral[edit | edit source]

Any of a large and important class of minerals the chemistry of which is based on the silicate tetrahedron. Article: Silicate minerals.

Silicate tetrahedron[edit | edit source]

The ion SiO44-, consisting of four oxygen atoms arranged around a silicon atom in a tetrahedron. Such units can link together with each other by sharing oxygen atoms at their corners to form a variety of structures including sheet silicates, chain silicates and quartz. Article: Silicate minerals.

Siliceous[edit | edit source]

Composed of silica. Article: Siliceous ooze.

Siliceous ooze[edit | edit source]

Ooze on the sea floor, composed of the siliceous test of radiolaria and diatoms. Articles: Siliceous ooze, Marine sediments.

Sill[edit | edit source]

A sheet of intrusive rock forced between strata. Articles: Igneous rocks, Igneous rocks and stratigraphy.

Silt[edit | edit source]

Clasts between 1/16mm and 1/256mm in diameter. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Siltstone[edit | edit source]

Sedimentary rock composed of silt. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Sinstral[edit | edit source]

A fault is said to be sinstral if someone standing on one side of the fault and looking at the other when there is motion along the fault would see the other side moving to the left. Article: Faults.

Skarn[edit | edit source]

A rock produced by metasomatism. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Sky island[edit | edit source]

A mountain habitat which is home to species which are isolated by their inability to cross the drier hotter surrounding plain. Article: Ice ages.

Slab[edit | edit source]

The portion of a plate being thrust into the athenosphere during subduction. Article: Subduction.

Slate[edit | edit source]

A metamorphic rock formed by metamorphism of shale, exhibiting pronounced foliation. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Slatey foliation[edit | edit source]

The sort of foliation found in slate. Article: Metamorphic rocks.

Slickenside[edit | edit source]

A smoothed and striated surface produced by the friction between the two sides of a fault. Article: Faults.

SLR[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for Satelite Laser Ranging. Article: Continental drift.

Sm[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element samarium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Other isochron methods.

Sm-Nd dating[edit | edit source]

Samarium-neodymium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: Other isochron methods.

Snell's Law[edit | edit source]

A law relating the density of two mediums to the angle of refraction undergone by a wave when it passes from one medium to the other. Article: Seismic wave.

Soil[edit | edit source]

Sediment which has been altered by the effects of chemical weathering and and the activity of organisms (plants growing in it, burrowing animals such as worms, the addition of humus etc). Article: Soils and paleosols.

Sole mark[edit | edit source]

A mark made in sediment when it is scoured by a current. Article: Turbidites.

Solid solution[edit | edit source]

A mineral in which some positions in the crystal lattice may be filled by different elements. Article: Minerals.

Soluble[edit | edit source]

Capable of becoming dissolved. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Solute[edit | edit source]

A substance dissolved in a solvent. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Solvent[edit | edit source]

The medium in which a substance is dissolved. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Sorosilicates[edit | edit source]

Silicates in which the silica tetrahedra are bonded together in pairs. Article: Minerals.

Sorting[edit | edit source]

Sediment is said to be well-sorted if it consists of particles of about the same grain-size. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Speleothem[edit | edit source]

A feature in a cave, such as a stalactite or stalagmite, formed by the precipitation of dissolved minerals, typically calcium carbonate. Articles: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Spherical symmetry[edit | edit source]

A body (in this textbook, invariably the Earth) is said to be spherically symmetric with respect to some property if the value of that property at any given point in it depends only on the distance of that point from the center, and not on the longitude and latitude of the point. Article: Structure of the Earth.

Sr[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element strontium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, Rb-Sr dating.

Stage[edit | edit source]

A stratigraphic unit smaller than a series but larger than a zone. Article: Geological column.

Stalactite[edit | edit source]

A speleothem hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Stalagmite[edit | edit source]

A speleothem in the form of a mound or column rising from the floor of a cave. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Standard[edit | edit source]

A rock of known age used in Ar-Ar dating. Article: Ar-Ar dating.

Steno's principles[edit | edit source]

The principles of superposition, of original horizontality, and of original continuity. Article: Steno's principles.

Step heating[edit | edit source]

A process used in Ar-Ar dating in which a rock sample is heated in steps of progressively higher temperatures. Article: Ar-Ar dating.

Strain[edit | edit source]

The deformation of a solid body as a result of stress. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Stratigraphy[edit | edit source]

The study of strata, in particular their order of deposition. Articles: Actualism, Steno's principles, Way-up structures, Fossils, Principle of faunal succession, Index fossils, Unconformities, Faults, Folds, Geological column, Walther's principle, Cross-cutting relationships, Igneous rocks and stratigraphy

Stratum[edit | edit source]

A layer of sedimentary rock with distinctive mineralogical, structural, or fossil characteristics such that it can be distinguished from the strata above and below it. Article: Sedimentary rocks.

Stream-dominated deltas[edit | edit source]

Deltas with long distributary channels reaching seaward; deltas in which the most important factor in their formation is the river discharging via the delta. Article: Deltas.

Stress[edit | edit source]

The force per unit area exerted on a surface of a deformable body; also by extension the external pressure which creates the internal force. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Striae[edit | edit source]

Synonym for striations. Article: Glaciers.

Striation[edit | edit source]

Grooves left by the movement of a glacier over a rock, parallel to the direction of motion. Article: Glaciers.

Strike-slip fault[edit | edit source]

A fault in which the blocks on either side of the fault move laterally but not vertically with respect to one another in a direction parallel to the fault. Article: Faults.

Stromatoporoids[edit | edit source]

Sponges which secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton and so were once important reef-forming organisms. While not actually extinct, they now live only in marginal habitats. Article: Reefs.

Subbituminous coal[edit | edit source]

Coal of a higher rank than lignite and a lower rank than bituminous coal. Article: Peat and coal.

Subduction[edit | edit source]

The motion of one plate beneath another and into the mantle. Article: Subduction.

Supercontinent[edit | edit source]

A landmass consisting of most or all of the continental crust joined together to form a single continent. Article: Continental drift.

Supercontinent cycle[edit | edit source]

A process in which supercontinents repeatedly form and then rift again into separate continents. Article: Continental drift.

Superposed river[edit | edit source]

A river which exists before the creation by erosion of the hills through which it flows. Article: Rivers.

Superimposed river[edit | edit source]

Synonym for superposed river. Article: Rivers.

Suspension[edit | edit source]

A form of transport of clasts by wind or water where the particles are carried above the ground, sea bed, river bed, etc. Articles: Mechanical weathering and erosion.

Suture zone[edit | edit source]

The line along which a continent becomes joined to another continent, microcontinent, or island arc. Article: Terranes.

Swamp[edit | edit source]

An area of waterlogged ground in which the water is shallow enough for land plants to grow. Articles: Peat and coal, Sediments and climate.

S-waves[edit | edit source]

Body waves consisting of waves of shear: that is, of displacement at right angles to the direction of travel of the wave, resembling the waves produced by shaking the end of a rope. Article: Seismic waves.

Syncline[edit | edit source]

Structure formed when rocks are folded downwards. Article: Folds.

System[edit | edit source]

The largest stratigraphic unit. Article: Geological column.

Tarn[edit | edit source]

A lake that forms in the former cirque of a glacier after the glacier has melted. Article: Glaciers.

Tectonic window[edit | edit source]

A place at which a rift in the Earth's crust allows us to see deeper into the crust than is normally possible. Article: Ophiolites.

Tectosilicate[edit | edit source]

A synonym for lattice silicate. Article: Silicate minerals.

Tension[edit | edit source]

Stress that produces elongation of a solid along the direction in which force is applied. Article: Physical properties of rocks.

Terminal lake[edit | edit source]

A lake which water flows into but not out of, usually salty as a result of the accumulation of dissolved minerals. Article: Lakes.

Terminal moraine[edit | edit source]

A moraine deposited at the ablation zone of a glacier. Articles: Glaciers, Ice ages.

Terragenic[edit | edit source]

Having an origin on land. Article: Marine sediments.

Terrane[edit | edit source]

Part of a landmass, bounded by tectonic faults, which is different in many ways from the main landmass to which it is attached. Article: Terranes.

Terrestrial[edit | edit source]

Having to do with the land. Articles: Sedimentary rocks, Lakes, Radiocarbon dating.

Test[edit | edit source]

The shell of a micro-organism such as a diatom or a foraminiferan. Articles: Calcareous ooze, Siliceous ooze.

TEX86[edit | edit source]

A temperature proxy based on measurement of the different varieties of GDGTs in sediments. Article: TEX86.

Texture[edit | edit source]

Physical characteristics of a rock including crystal size (in igneous or metamorphic rocks), and clast size and the degree of sorting and rounding of clasts (in sedimentary rocks). Articles: Igneous rocks, Sedimentary rocks, Metamorphic rocks.

Theory of evolution[edit | edit source]

The explanation of the facts of evolution in terms of such mechanisms as mutatation, recombination, lateral gene transfer, genetic drift, and natural selection. The explanation for the principle of faunal succession. Article: Principle of faunal succession.

Thermohaline circulation[edit | edit source]

Deep-water circulation driven by density differences in the temperature and salinity of sea water. Article: Climate models.

Thrust fault[edit | edit source]

A reverse fault in which the angle of the fault is more than 45° from the vertical. Article: Faults.

Tide-dominated delta[edit | edit source]

A delta in which the most important factor in its dynamics is the tide; characterized by the formation of offshore bars running parallel to the direction of the tide. Article: Deltas.

Till[edit | edit source]

Unsorted and usually unbedded sediment deposited by a glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Tidal braking[edit | edit source]

Slowing of the Earth's rotation as a result of the tidal interaction between the Earth and the Moon. Articles: Sclerochronology, Tidal rhythmites and dating.

Tillite[edit | edit source]

The lithified equivalent of till. Article: Glaciers.

Topset beds[edit | edit source]

The flat beds of sediment deposited on the top surface of a delta. Article: Deltas.

Trace fossil[edit | edit source]

A fossil such as a footprint which is not of an animal but which was produced by one. Article: Fossils.

Transgression[edit | edit source]

An event in which the shoreline moves inland; the opposite of a regression. Articles: Walther's principle, Sea level variations.

Transitive[edit | edit source]

A relation is said to be transitive if when A stands in that relation to B, and B stands in that relation to C, then A stands in that relation to C. For example, the relation "is smaller than" is a transitive relation: if A is smaller than B, and B is smaller than C, then A is smaller than C. Article: Principle of faunal succession.

Trench[edit | edit source]

A depression in the sea floor formed along the line where one plate subducts beneath another. Article: Subduction.

Trona[edit | edit source]

An evaporite mineral having the chemical formula Na3(CO3)(HCO3)·2H2O.

Tsunami[edit | edit source]

A sea-wave caused by any high-intensity, short-duration submarine event, most usually an earthquake. Often colloquially and completely inaccurately known as a "tidal wave". Article: Actualism.

Tsunamite[edit | edit source]

Sediment deposited by a tsunami. Article: Actualism.

Tuff[edit | edit source]

Lithified Volcanic ash Article: Volcanic ash.

Turbid[edit | edit source]

Loaded with sediment. Article: Turbidites.

Turbidite[edit | edit source]

Rock formed from sediment deposited by a turbidity current. Article: Turbidites.

Turbidity current[edit | edit source]

A current which manages to keep from mixing with the medium through which it flows because, being turbid, it is denser than the surrounding medium. Article: Turbidites.

Turbidity sediment[edit | edit source]

Sediment deposited by a turbidity current. Article: Turbidites.

U[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element uranium. Articles: Chemistry for geologists, U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating, U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Uk'37[edit | edit source]

A proxy for temperature based on measurements of the different kinds of alkenones preserved in sediment. Article: Uk'37.

Ultrabasic rock[edit | edit source]

An obsolete and inaccurate term for ultramafic rock. Article: Igneous rocks.

Ultramafic rock[edit | edit source]

A rock which is extremely mafic; that is, particularly low in silicate tetrahedra and high in magnesium and iron. Article: Igneous rocks.

Unconformity[edit | edit source]

A surface between successive strata representing a period of erosion or of no deposition. Article: Unconformities.

Underclay[edit | edit source]

Synonym for seat-earth. Article: Peat and coal.

Uniformitarianism[edit | edit source]

An alternative term for actualism, not used in this textbook because of ambiguities and inconsistencies in its usage. Article: Actualism.

Unstable[edit | edit source]

Prone to radioactive decay. Article: Radioactive decay.

U-Pa dating[edit | edit source]

Uranium-protactinium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

U-Pb[edit | edit source]

Uranium-lead dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Upper plane bed[edit | edit source]

A flat layered surface formed in a river bed when the river is travelling at too great a velocity to form ripples or dunes. Article: Rivers.

Uraninite[edit | edit source]

The mineral UO2 Article: Banded iron formations.

U-Th dating[edit | edit source]

Uranium-thorium dating, a form of radiometric dating. Article: U-Th, U-Pa, and Ra-Pb dating.

Vail curve[edit | edit source]

A reconstruction of past variations of sea level based on the study of unconformities in the geological record. Article: Sea level variations.

Valley glacier[edit | edit source]

A glacier which has its accumulation zone on a mountain (typically in a cirque) and which flows down through valleys under both gravity and its own pressure; as distinct from a continental glacier. Article: Glaciers.

Valve[edit | edit source]

One of the two shells of a bivalve. Article: Way-up structures.

Varve[edit | edit source]

A lamina of coarse light sediment grading into fine dark sediment, often found in lakes fed by meltwater from a glacier and representing one year's deposition. Articles: Glaciers, Lakes, Varves.

Very Long Baseline Interferometry[edit | edit source]

A technique in astronomy involving widely separated radio telescopes observing the same object, such as a quasar. Used by geologists to measure the motion of tectonic plates by inferring the motion of the radio telescopes necessary to account for the data. Article: Continental drift.

Viscosity[edit | edit source]

Informally speaking, the reluctance of a liquid to flow; so for example maple syrup is more viscous than water. Article: Igneous rocks.

Vis plastica[edit | edit source]

The name of an imaginary force once thought to cause fossils to grow in rocks. Article: Fossils.

VLBI[edit | edit source]

Abbreviation for Very Long Baseline Inferometry. Article: Continental drift.

Volcanic ash[edit | edit source]

Fine debris formed when a volcano sprays out fine particles of lava. Note that the term "ash" is a misnomer, since volcanic "ash" is not a product of combustion. Article: Volcanic ash.

Walther's principle[edit | edit source]

The principle that if sediment A is succeeded vertically by sediment B without an unconformity between them, then sediment A will also be succeeded horizontally by sediment B in some direction. Article: Walther's principle.

Wave base[edit | edit source]

The greatest depth at which the action of a wave has any effect. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Wave ripples[edit | edit source]

Ripples in sand or other sediment caused by the action of the tide. Article: Nearshore sediments.

Wave-dominated deltas[edit | edit source]

deltas in which longshore drift forms barrier islands in front of the delta. Article: Deltas.

Way-up structure[edit | edit source]

A geological feature which enable us to discover which way up a rock was when it was originally formed. Article: Way-up structures.

Weathering[edit | edit source]

Processes which break up rock but do not themselves transport it, as distinct from erosion. Article: Mechanical weathering and erosion, Chemical weathering.

Weathering rind[edit | edit source]

The outer, weathered volume of a rock in which the outside has undergone weathering but the weathering process has not yet penetrated all the way through the rock. Article: Chemical weathering.

Welded tuff[edit | edit source]

Tuff which forms when a fall of Volcanic ash is still hot enough to weld itself together. Article: Volcanic ash.

Xenotime[edit | edit source]

The mineral YPO4, useful because it can be used in the radiometric dating of sedimentary rocks. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Y[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element yttrium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Zircon[edit | edit source]

The mineral ZrSiO4, useful for radiometric dating because of its resistance to erosion, weathering, and metamorphosis. Article: U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating.

Zone[edit | edit source]

The smallest stratigraphic unit. Can also be used in the usual informal sense of a region or area, as in the term "ablation zone". Article: Geological column.

Zr[edit | edit source]

Chemical symbol for the element zirconium. Article: Chemistry for geologists.

Sea level variations · Bibliography