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Regional Metamorphism - Windows to the Universe

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When continents collide (A) or ocean crust subducts (B), rocks are altered by regional metamorphism.
L.Gardiner/Windows Original

Regional Metamorphism

Sometimes rocks are metamorphosed over large areas that are the size of many states or even several countries. This is called regional metamorphism.

How could this happen? What force has the power to change all those rocks? Read the three examples listed below and you will learn what is powerful enough to squish all those rocks until the crystals change.

  • Pieces of the Earth's surface layer (called the lithosphere) crash into each other, rocks are squished and changed deep within mountain ranges.
  • One piece of the lithosphere is pulled below another and the rocks are altered deep underground by the high pressure and temperature.
  • Over time, rock is buried as rocks are deposited above.

What has the power to metamorphose all those rocks? The answer is MOVING ROCKS! Usually regional metamorphism happens as the rocky surface of the Earth moves by plate tectonics!


Last modified June 20, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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TES XXVI, 3 fall 2010 The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF