The main theme in Rising from the Plains is the formation of the Rocky Mountains. “Topography grows, shrinks, compresses, spreads, disintegrates, and disappears” (McPhee 27). The physical features of the Earth are temporary and are always changing. The Rocky Mountains have been rising and falling since Precambrian time when lava streamed down the sides of volcanoes and flowed out onto the seafloor of present day Wyoming. As the lava folded and faulted, mountains were created. However, mountains were also eliminated from the surface of the Earth. In late Cretaceous and early Tertiary time, the landscape of Wyoming was at sea level, consisting of flat marshy terrain. As the seawater drained away into the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean, mountains began to rise rapidly, forming many of the mountains in Wyoming that are present at this time. Unexpected tectonic activity, known to geologists as the Laramide Orogeny, is the event that caused ...
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...de in the field collecting data straight from the landscape. However, I do think that the use of technology has enhanced the study of geology, as geologists are able to build models and graphs with collected data from the field.
Before I read Rising from the Plains, I did not have any knowledge of how the Rocky Mountains were formed even though I grew up in a small mountain town. After reading this story I have gained an understanding of the processes that formed the mountains, as well as basins and valleys. John McPhee provides a very detailed description of the ideas concerning the geologic history of Wyoming in Rising from the Plains. I did find McPhee’s writing style to be difficult to read, especially since I am not familiar with any geological terms and processes; however I did grow in knowledge about the history of mountain formation while reading this book.
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