People who fly a lot for whatever region may be forgiven for not paying attention to the grand panorama unfolding below them, but to a geologist, the extra dimension is pure gold. Seeing a large swath of the Earth's surface grants a whole new perspective to understanding geological processes.
I didn't have a working GPS on the flight, so I had to guess our location for the first two hours of the flight, somewhere over Missouri, Oklahoma, or Texas. But it was unmistakable that we were over oil and gas country. The drilling rigs and their connecting roads could not be missed. Some politicians once described the "footprint" of oil and gas drilling on a landscape as just a few acres being torn up. Seeing the scene from above suggests that the footprint is "small" in the sense that a spider web is a few strings of dragline silk.
The landscape turned into a rainbow of color, and I suddenly knew our precise location better than a GPS unit. We had reached the Painted Desert area of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. A plateau covered by basalt flows was breached by erosion, exposing the brightly colored layers of the Triassic Chinle Formation. The Triassic rocks reveal the beginnings of the dinosaur domination of our planet, and the floodplain and river deposits contain some of the earliest dinosaur species known. There is the wood, of course, and a stunning variety of amphibians and reptiles, including Phytosaurs, huge crocodile-shaped creatures that exceeded 30 feet in length.
in yesterday's post.