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April 3 2013

Geology: How the West Was Formed


The American West was wild, a messy jumble of land grabbing. Some early movers and shakers were shredded to bits, while others were just buried, never to be seen again.

We are, of course, talking about plate tectonics.

Earlier research suggested the western edge of the North American continent was formed by the conveyor belt-like movement eastward of a single oceanic plate called the Farallon Plate. But an alternative explanation published today in Nature suggests a far more complicated mash-up created North America’s mountainous west, involving at least two additional plates.

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