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Saturday, July 25, 2015

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These Rainbow Mountains Are China's Secret Geological Wonder (15 Pics)

A mountain range of densely packed layers of minerals and rock that are dramatically striated into a layer cake of magenta, maroon, and lemon-colored stone.
Here's the view from Google Earth:

Over millions of years, layers of different types of rock—including red sandstone and a whole lot of mineral deposits—formed on top of one another. Normal so far. But then, 40 or 50 million years ago, gigantic force of tectonic plates forced an island—the future India—into a collision course with the rest of Eurasia.
The catastrophic impact took place in slow motion: Over 50 million years, India—moving atabout 27 feet per century—crushed into the larger continent, creating rifts of fractured rock and creating mountain ranges like the Himalayas. Over in the future Chinese province of Gansu, the collision disrupted the layer cake of red rock and minerals, too. Imagine a piece of paper with lines drawn on it—then imagine crumpling it up. The "rainbow" patterns we see at Danxia are the result of a similar crumpling, which explains their perfect striation.

Danxia isn't the only instance of such dramatic coloration. There are a couple of similar examples in North America. For example, there's the Spectrum Range, in British Columbia:
The Spectrum Range is part of a "stratovolcano," or conical volcano, which are created by layer after layer of lava, pumice, ash, and minerals—a bit like Danxia's layer cake effect:

Further south towards the U.S., there's the Chilcotin Plateau—also known as the Rainbow Range. This range, too, is a huge shield volcano (19 miles wide!) that's mostly made up of a type of rock called Peralkaline—which have less aluminum and more sodium and potassium, part of what gives them their vibrant hue. Leigh McAdam hiked the Range and took the astounding shots below:


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