Navajo Sandstone: The Real Jurassic Park
The real Jurassic Park was as an ancient landscape home to a vast desert covered mostly in sand dunes as far as the eye could see, where dinosaurs and small mammals roamed southern Utah. The Navajo Sandstone is known for its beautiful red and tan crossbedded sandstones that grace many of the national parks and monuments in the southwest USA–for example Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks.
Credit: Stephen T. Hasiotis.
These age dates show that in eastern Utah parts of the Navajo desert are much older than previously thought, and together with age dates from Arizona show that the giant sand sea became younger to the south. The lake and associated spring deposits also show that this vast desert, at times, had a wetter climate and more active hydrologic cycle than had been previously assumed.
This work demonstrates that the desertification process is complex, and that age dates from carbonates and correlation of rock layers will help answer major questions of how desertification takes place in continental interiors.
This study has societal relevance because the history of hydroclimate (i.e., groundwater and climate) change recorded in the Navajo desert deposits can serve as a model for modern marginal environments that may be impacted by desertification from a warming climate. With the projected rise in global temperature, regions in marginal zones are anticipated to become even more vulnerable to desertification. That is, these zones will become part of the growing desert regions. Particularly vulnerable areas are found in Africa and Asia, areas with large population densities that are already exceeding the capacity to supply food and water. By studying how the Navajo erg evolved, we can provide important insights into rates of modern desertification.
Contacts and sources:
The Geological Society of America
Citation: Earliest Jurassic U-Pb ages from carbonate deposits in the Navajo Sandstone, southeastern Utah, USA
Judith Totman Parrish, Univ. of Idaho, and colleagues. Corresponding author: E. Troy Rasbury, Stony Brook UnivURL: https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article/573442/Earliest-Jurassic-UPb-ages-from-carbonate-deposits.
GEOLOGY articles are online at http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/early/recent.
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