Colorful ancient rock layers in Gansu Province • Earth.com

Last update: May 6th, 2021 at 11:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Gansu province in northwestern China. Located at the northernmost extent of the Tibetan Plateau, the mountainous landscape of Gansu includes layers of colorful rocks. 

The geological history of the rock formations goes back millions of years and involves a continental collision more than 2,000 kilometers away.

The photograph shows the brightly colored landscape that surrounds the Qilian Mountains, with red and brown rocks visible in the northern foothills of the mountain range. 

According to NASA, it is a geologic marvel that the park’s colorful layers, which were deposited tens of millions of years ago during the Cretaceous Period, are visible at all. They have been exposed by folding and faulting processes that lifted and deformed the rocks. 

Much of this transformative activity has been attributed to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates about 50 million years ago. However, recent studies suggest that the deformation is even older.

“The implications are that there was somewhat rugged, pre-existing topography prior to the India-Asia collision,” said Andrew Zuza, a scientist at the University of Nevada. 

“The Qinghai-Gansu province areas of the northern Tibetan Plateau may have already had some topography before development of the Tibetan Plateau.”

The image was captured on September 17, 2020 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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