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Terrestrial analogs in the Mojave Desert of the southwestern United States for volcanic, sedimentary, and tectonic processes on other planets

By
Nicholas P. Lang
Nicholas P. Lang
1 Department of Geology, Mercyhurst College, 501 E. 38th Street, Erie, Pennsylvania 16546, USA
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Christopher M. Fedo
Christopher M. Fedo
2 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA
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S. Christopher Whisner
S. Christopher Whisner
3 Department of Geography and Geosciences, Bloomsburg University, 400 E. 2nd Street, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania 17815, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2011

A critical factor required to unravel processes that have shaped other planets is a solid understanding of geologic processes as they operate on Earth, and a logical way to understand those processes is to go into the field and view them. We provide a field guide to three locations: (1) Cima volcanic field, south of Baker, California; (2) Rainbow Basin, north of Barstow, California; and (3) Red Rock Canyon and vicinity in Nevada and California, all within the Mojave Desert of the southwestern United States. These locations highlight three processes that have affected Earth and other planets: volcanism, sedimentation, and tectonism. Volcanism is explored by looking at the basaltic cinder cones, lava flows, lava tube, and xenoliths of the later Tertiary and Quaternary Cima volcanic field. Felsic ash and volcaniclastic material interbedded with lacustrine, siliciclastic sedimentary rocks are examined in Rainbow Basin, a Tertiary strike-slip basin. The interplay between volcanic and sedimentary processes is examined at this locality, while deformation of the basin makes it ideal for examining structural and tectonic aspects. Broader-scale tectonism is observed in the hanging wall (Ordovician carbonates) and footwall (Jurassic sandstone) rocks to the Keystone thrust fault. The fault is visible given the color contrast between the lower (white and red) and upper (gray) plates. In Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, exposures of the Jurassic Aztec Sandstone display excellent examples of large-scale cross-stratification from eolian dune deposition. Each locale holds lessons pertinent for the study of processes that have operated on other planets in the solar system.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Analogs for Planetary Exploration

W. Brent Garry
W. Brent Garry
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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Jacob E. Bleacher
Jacob E. Bleacher
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Planetary Geodynamics Lab, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
483
ISBN print:
9780813724836
Publication date:
December 01, 2011

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