Scenic Saturday: the American West from above

Earlier this week, geoblogger Michael Klaas pointed me in the direction of a lovely set of paintings of landscapes viewed from the windows of airliners as they traversed America. These pictures reminded me of some photos that I took at the end of last year on a flight from Chicago to Phoenix:

Photo: Chris Rowan, 2010. Click to enlarge.

Photo: Chris Rowan, 2010. Click to enlarge.

Photo: Chris Rowan, 2010. Click to enlarge.

As well as being quite handsome to look at, there’s a tantalising glimpse of some interesting geology in the landscape I was flying over. The steep cliff faces indicate layers of hard rock – probably sandstone or limestone. The fact that there is a series of them suggests that there are some softer, more easily eroded layers – a mudstone, perhaps? – between them. In the second picture, the formations are dipping into the earth, away from the direction I am flying in; so in a sense, my flight is taking me back in time, a story of past Earths and changing environments rewound below me as I travel onwards. The final picture is particularly tantalising, though: it shows a double ridge, which looks to me like two closely-spaced sandstone or limestone beds tipped almost up on their ends, so that they are plunging almost vertically into the Earth. That suggests folding. And you know how I like folding.

The problem is that I’m not sure exactly where I was in the western US when I took these photos. I was definitely closer to Phoenix than Chicago, but I’m not sure if I was snapping Arizona, Colorado or Utah. Perhaps one of my readers can help? Consider it a challenge: a Where On (Not Google) Earth, if you will.

Categories: geopuzzling, outcrops, photos, structures

Comments (3)

  1. Ron Schott says:

    Got all three located. I’ll work on detailed geologic interpretation in the morning, though I invite others to beat me to it.

    God I love these sort of challenges!

  2. Ron Schott says:

    Here’s the info on Airphoto #1 in a KMZ file which can be opened in Google Earth:

    Airphoto #1: Located at the northern edge of the Springerville Volcanic Field in east-central Arizona, between the towns of Snowflake and Concho, south of Interstate 40, this Plio-Pleistocene tongue of basaltic lava flowed northward down a valley atop Triassic sedimentary rocks of the Chinle and Moenkopi Formations. Subsequent erosion has inverted the topography, leaving behind a prominent basalt capped mesa fringed by dark talus slopes of basalt.

    The other two are just across the border in western New Mexico. I have them located, but I need to dig out my New Mexico geologic map to nail down the details.

  3. Wayne Ranney says:

    Photo 2 looks like a shot to the east over the Wingate Cliffs (left) and the Zuni Upwarp (Right. Interstate 40 and the BNSF tracks can be seen in the strike valley.

    Photo 3 looks like the Nutria monocline east of Gallup with some of the Ft. Wingate depot in view.

    Just educated guesses on my part after a quick look. So glad you get excited about seeing this from the air!