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Geology Glossary

Geology Glossary

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Published by: api-3808551 on Oct 17, 2008
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aa:a term of hawaiian origin. used in reference to a basaltic lava that occurs in
flows with a fissured, rough and jagged surface.
accretionary:wedge a mass of sediment and oceanic lithosphere that is
transferred from a subducting plate to the less dense, overriding plate with which it
ablation:occurs when more glacier ice is lost by melting and evaporation each
year than is added by snowfall.
loss of ice in a glacier or ice sheet from melting, sublimation, or calving of
bergs into a body of water.
ablation complex: assemblage of sediments deposited during the ablation of
a glacier, generally by being let down from at or near the glacier surface by melting
of underlying ice.
ablation hummock: mound of till-like sediment deposited in a depression
in the ice. the sediment becomes a positive topographic feature after the
surrounding ice has melted.
abrasion:a form of mechanical weathering that occurs when loose fragments
or particles of rocks and minerals that are being transported, as by water or air,
collide with each other or scrape the surfaces of stationary rocks.
absolute age:the approximate age of a geologic event, feature, fossil, or rock
in years. 'absolute' ages are determined by using natural radioactive 'clocks'. the
preferred term is radiometric age.
accretion:a process that adds part of one tectonic plate to a larger plate along a
convergent (collisional) plate boundary.
actinolite:a bright to gray-green member of theam phibole mineral family. in
addition tosili ca, it contains calcium, magnesium, and iron. actinolite is a non-
hazardous relative of asbestos and is a common mineral inm etamor phic rocks.
active volcano:a volcano that has erupted within historical time and is likely
to do so again in the future.
acid rain:rain that contains such acidic compounds as sulfuric acid and nitric
acid, which are produced by the combination of atmospheric water with oxides
released when hydrocarbons are burned. acid rain is widely considered responsible
for damaging forests, crops, and human-made structures, and for killing aqua-tic
acidic rock:an igneous rock that has a relatively high silica content. examples
are granite and rhyolite. also see entries forbasic,intermediate andultrabasic
acre-foot:the volume of water needed to flood one acre of land to a depth of

one foot. equivalent to 43,560 cubic feet, 1,233 cubic meters or 325,851 gallons. one
of the most common units of measure used for reservoir capacity. also used in
mineral resource calculations (an acre-foot of coal is a block of coal one acre in area
and one foot thick - it weighs approximately 1,800 tons).

aftershock:a ground tremor caused by the repositioning of rocks after an
earthquake. aftershocks may continue to occur for as long as two years after the
initial earthquake. the intensity of an earthquake's aftershocks decreases over time.
aggradation: the process by which a stream's gradient steepens due to
increased deposition of sediment.
a horizon:the top layer of soil. plant and other organic debris builds up in this
layer. this is the part of the soil generally referred to as 'top soil'.
alkali:used in reference to materials that are rich in sodium and/or potassium.
alloy: a metal that is manufactured by combining two or more molten metals. an
alloy is always harder than its component metals. bronze is an alloy of copper and
alluvial: pertaining to material or processes associated with transportation and
or subaerial deposition by concentrated running water.
alluvial fan:a fan-shaped wedge of sediment that typically accumulates on
land where a stream emerges from a steep canyon onto a flat area. in map view it
has the shape of an open fan. typically forms in arid or semiarid climates.

a fan-shaped pile of sediment that forms
where a rapidly flowing mountain stream enters a relatively flat valley. as water
slows down, it deposits sediment (alluvium) that gradually builds a fan.

a triangular deposit of sediment left by a stream that has lost velocity upon
entering a broad, relatively flat valley.
alluvial valley: river or stream valley flanked by floodplains that are
frequently inundated by seasonal floods and underlain by alluvium.
alluvium:an unconsolidated accumulation of stream-deposited sediments,
including sands, silts, clays or gravels.
sand, gravel, and silt deposited by rivers and
streams in a valley bottom.
unconsolidated clastic material subaerially deposited by running water,
including gravel, sand, silt, clay, and various mixtures of these.

a deposit of sediment left by a stream on the stream's channel or floodplain.
sand, gravel, silt, and clay deposited adjacent to modern streams and derived

from erosion of surface sediments elsewhere in the watershed or from valley walls.
alpine glacier: a mountain glacier that is confined by highlands.
amphibole:a family of silicate minerals forming prism or needlelike crystals.

amphibole minerals generally contain iron, magnesium, calcium and aluminum in varying amounts, along with water. hornblende always has aluminum and is a most common dark green to black variety of amphibole; it, forms forming in many

igneousand metamorphic rocks. actinolite has no aluminum; it and is needle-shaped
and light green. blue amphibole contains sodium and, of course, is bluish in color.
amphibolite:a rock made up mostlyam phibole and plagioclase feldspar.
although the name amphibolite usually refers to a type of metamorphic rock, an
igneous rock composed dominantly of amphibole can be called an amphibolite too.
andesite:fine-grained, generally dark colored,igneous volcanic rock with more
silica thanbasalt. commonly with visible crystals of plagioclase feldspar. generally
occurs in lava flows, but also as dikes. the most common rock in volcanic arcs.

the dark, aphanitic, extrusive rock that has a silica content of about 60% and is the second most abundant volcanic rock. andesites are found in large quantities in the andes mountains.

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