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Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

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Image from: Rick Kohrs, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Surface of the Earth

Most of the Earth's surface (70%) is covered with water, and the remaining 30% is taken up by the seven continental landmasses. However, underneath the water that fills the oceans, and the dirt and plants that cover the continents, the Earth’s surface layer is made of rock. This outer layer formed a hard, rocky crust as lava at the surface cooled 4.5 billion years ago.

The crust is broken into many large plates that move slowly relative to each other. Mountain ranges form when two plates collide and their edges are forced up. In addition, many other surface features are the result of the moving plates. The plates move about one inch per year, so millions of years ago the continents and the oceans were in different positions. About 250 million years ago, most of the land was connected together, and over time has separated into seven continents.


Last modified September 6, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA