Geology of Texas

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Shaded Relief Map of the Llano Estacado. LlanoEstacadoShadedRelief.jpg
Shaded Relief Map of the Llano Estacado.

Texas contains a great variety of geologic settings. The state's stratigraphy has been largely influenced by marine transgressive-regressive cycles during the Phanerozoic, with a lesser but still significant contribution from late Cenozoic tectonic activity, as well as the remnants of a Paleozoic mountain range.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Stratigraphy The study of rock layers and their formation

Stratigraphy is a branch of geology concerned with the study of rock layers (strata) and layering (stratification). It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks. Stratigraphy has two related subfields: lithostratigraphy and biostratigraphy.

The Phanerozoic Eon is the current geologic eon in the geologic time scale, and the one during which abundant animal and plant life has existed. It covers 541 million years to the present, and began with the Cambrian Period when animals first developed hard shells preserved in the fossil record. Its name was derived from the Ancient Greek words φανερός and ζωή, meaning visible life, since it was once believed that life began in the Cambrian, the first period of this eon. The term "Phanerozoic" was coined in 1930 by the American geologist George Halcott Chadwick (1876–1953). The time before the Phanerozoic, called the Precambrian, is now divided into the Hadean, Archaean and Proterozoic eons.


General geology

Texas is approximately bisected by a series of faults that trend southwest to northeast across the state, from the area of Uvalde to Texarkana. South and east of these faults, the surface exposures consist mostly of Cenozoic sandstone and shale strata that grow progressively younger toward the coast, indicative of a regression that has continued from the late Mesozoic to the present. The coastal plain is underlaid by salt domes that are responsible for many of the oil traps in the region.

In geology, a fault is a planar fracture or discontinuity in a volume of rock, across which there has been significant displacement as a result of rock-mass movement. Large faults within the Earth's crust result from the action of plate tectonic forces, with the largest forming the boundaries between the plates, such as subduction zones or transform faults. Energy release associated with rapid movement on active faults is the cause of most earthquakes.

Uvalde, Texas City in Texas, United States

Uvalde is a city in and the county seat of Uvalde County, Texas, United States. The population was 15,751 at the 2010 census.

Sandstone A clastic sedimentary rock composed mostly of sand-sized particles

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments.

North and west of the faults are the Stockton, Edwards, and Comanche plateaux; these define a crustal block that was upthrown during the Neogene. This large region of central Texas, which extends from Brewster County east to Bexar, and northeast to the Red River features extensive Cretaceous shale and limestone outcrops. The limestone in particular is important, both economically for its use in cement manufacture and as a building material, as well as practically; a porous limestone formation in the Texas Hill Country is the reservoir of the Edwards Aquifer, a vital water source to millions.

Edwards Plateau

The Edwards Plateau is a region of west-central Texas which is bounded by the Balcones Fault to the south and east, the Llano Uplift and the Llano Estacado to the north, and the Pecos River and Chihuahuan Desert to the west. San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio roughly outline the area. The eastern portion of the plateau is known as the Texas Hill Country.

Fault block very large block of rock

Fault blocks are very large blocks of rock, sometimes hundreds of kilometres in extent, created by tectonic and localized stresses in the Earth's crust. Large areas of bedrock are broken up into blocks by faults. Blocks are characterized by relatively uniform lithology. The largest of these fault blocks are called crustal blocks. Large crustal blocks broken off from tectonic plates are called terranes. Those terranes which are the full thickness of the lithosphere are called microplates. Continent-sized blocks are called variously microcontinents, continental ribbons, H-blocks, extensional allochthons and outer highs.

The Neogene is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleogene Period 23.03 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the present Quaternary Period 2.58 Mya. The Neogene is sub-divided into two epochs, the earlier Miocene and the later Pliocene. Some geologists assert that the Neogene cannot be clearly delineated from the modern geological period, the Quaternary. The term "Neogene" was coined in 1853 by the Austrian palaeontologist Moritz Hörnes (1815–1868).

Almost in the center of these Cretaceous rocks is the Llano Uplift, a geologic dome of Precambrian gneiss, schist, and granite, surrounded by Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The granite here is quarried for construction, but it is perhaps best known to Texans through its manifestation as Enchanted Rock.

Llano Uplift

The Llano uplift is a low geologic dome that is about 90 miles (140 km) in diameter. It consists of an island-like exposure of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks surrounded by outcrops of Paleozoic and Cretaceous sedimentary strata. At their widest, the exposed Precambrian rocks extend about 65 miles (105 km) westward from the valley of the Colorado River and beneath a broad, gentle topographic basin drained by the Llano River. The subdued topographic basin is underlain by Precambrian rocks and bordered by a discontinuous rim of flat-topped hills. These hills are the dissected edge of the Edwards Plateau, which consist of overlying Cretaceous sedimentary strata. Within this basin and along its margin are down-faulted blocks and erosional remnants of Paleozoic strata which form prominent hills.

Dome (geology) Deformational feature in structural geology of symmetrical anticlines that intersect each other at their respective apices.

A dome is a feature in structural geology consisting of symmetrical anticlines that intersect each other at their respective apices. Intact, domes are distinct, rounded, spherical-to-ellipsoidal-shaped protrusions on the Earth's surface. However, a transect parallel to Earth's surface of a dome features concentric rings of strata. Consequently, if the top of a dome has been eroded flat, the resulting structure in plan view appears as a bullseye, with the youngest rock layers at the outside, and each ring growing progressively older moving inwards. These strata would have been horizontal at the time of deposition, then later deformed by the uplift associated with dome formation.

The Precambrian is the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic Eon. The Precambrian is so named because it preceded the Cambrian, the first period of the Phanerozoic eon, which is named after Cambria, the Latinised name for Wales, where rocks from this age were first studied. The Precambrian accounts for 88% of the Earth's geologic time.

From San Saba north to Childress, and from Wichita Falls in the east to Big Spring in the west, the surface consists of late Paleozoic (Pennsylvanian) to early Mesozoic (Triassic) marine sediments. These strata grow younger from east to west, until they are overlain unconformably by terrigenous Ogallala sediments of Miocene and Pliocene age. These late Cenozoic deposits dominate the Texas Panhandle.

San Saba, Texas City in Texas, United States

San Saba is a city located in Central Texas. It was settled in 1854 and named for its location on the San Saba River. The population was 3,099 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of San Saba County.

Childress, Texas City in Texas, United States

Childress is a city in Childress County, Texas, United States. The population was 6,905 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Childress County.

Big Spring, Texas City in Texas, United States

Big Spring is a city in and the county seat of Howard County, Texas, United States, at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 87 and Interstate 20. With a population of 27,282 as of the 2010 census, it is the largest city between Midland to the west, Abilene to the east, Lubbock to the north, and San Angelo to the south. Big Spring was established as the county seat of Howard County in 1882; it is the largest community in the county.

The geology of west Texas is arguably the state's most complex, with a mix of exposed Cretaceous and Pennsylvanian strata, overlain by Quaternary conglomerates. A series of faults trend southeast to northwest across the region, from Big Bend to El Paso; there are also extensive volcanic deposits. The Marathon Mountains northeast of Big Bend National Park have long been of special interest to geologists; they are the folded and eroded remains of an ancient mountain range, created in the same orogeny that formed the Ouachita and Appalachian Mountains. [1]

Quaternary is the current and most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period and spans from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present. The Quaternary Period is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The informal term "Late Quaternary" refers to the past 0.5–1.0 million years.

Conglomerate (geology) A coarse-grained clastic sedimentary rock with mainly rounded to subangular clasts

Conglomerate is a coarse-grained clastic sedimentary rock that is composed of a substantial fraction of rounded to subangular gravel-size clasts, e.g., granules, pebbles, cobbles, and boulders, larger than 2 mm (0.079 in) in diameter. Conglomerates form by the consolidation and lithification of gravel. Conglomerates typically contain finer grained sediment, e.g., either sand, silt, clay or combination of them, called matrix by geologists, filling their interstices and are often cemented by calcium carbonate, iron oxide, silica, or hardened clay.

Big Bend National Park U.S. national park located in Southern Texas, bordering Mexico

For the Texas State Park see Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Historical geology

Landslide at Palo Duro Canyon (2002) Mass Waste Palo Duro 2002.jpg
Landslide at Palo Duro Canyon (2002)

The Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks of the Llano Uplift probably formed during the Mesoproterozoic Grenville orogeny, which was part of the assembly of the supercontinent Rodinia. Over time, the mountains of the Grenville orogeny were eroded flat, and later covered by Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments that were not uplifted and eroded in their present manner until the late Cenozoic.

Early to middle Paleozoic rocks in Texas are typically carbonate deposited in epeiric seas. Exceptions include a significant area of Cambrian sandstone in west Texas, and some shale strata from the Devonian and Mississippian periods. The Ouachita Mountains were uplifted across the state during the succeeding Pennsylvanian period; this provided a nearby source of sediment for shale and sandstone, along with more marine limestone deposition. [2]

Permian rocks are the best-known of the Texas Paleozoic. They are widespread in north Texas, where their characteristic red beds are spectacularly exposed in Palo Duro Canyon. The strata are also oil-rich where buried in west Texas, such as in the Midland and Odessa region. This crude oil rich area is known as the Permian Basin. Permian Texas was covered by shallow seas to the west, with evaporation flats to the east and north in the Panhandle. [3] Outstanding exposures of Permian strata are located in and around Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the geology of which resulted in the definition of several Permian stratotypes; the region is one of the world's best for studies of the period., [4] [5]

Early and middle Mesozoic strata are, on the whole, poorly represented in Texas. Triassic rocks are limited to sandstone and shale in the Panhandle, while the Jurassic record is almost nonexistent at the surface. This was far from a monotonous time, though, as it featured the creation of the Gulf of Mexico, from a rift southeast of the Ouachita Mountains. Deeply buried salt deposits and marine limestones under the coastal plain date from the Jurassic, when the first shallow seas formed. [6]

The late Mesozoic record is much richer. Cretaceous rocks—particularly those of the lower Cretaceous—are widespread at the surface, with yet more buried under the coastal plain. The strata consist of massive limestone sequences deposited when the entire region was submerged under the Western Interior Seaway, during the last great marine transgression. [7]

The Western Interior Seaway had withdrawn by the beginning of the Cenozoic, the era that put the finishing touch on Texas's current geology. The modern coastal plain formed during this time; it comprises increasingly thick sediments (perhaps 15 km deep at the coastline) deposited southeastward into the downwarping Gulf of Mexico. [8]

West Texas was rent by volcanism during the Eocene and Oligocene epochs, activity which formed most of the modern topography of the area. Later crustal extension created a series of alternating horsts and grabens similar to those in the Basin and Range Province of the western U.S. A late Cenozoic uplift of the Rocky Mountains led to the deposition of a vast fan of eroded sediment to their east, forming the Ogallala Formation that covers much of the Panhandle. Most of the state's current stream valleys and canyons date from the Pleistocene to the present, as the final geologic shaping of the state. [8]

Economic geology

Texas has been the leading state in petroleum production since discovery of the Spindletop oil field in 1901. As of October 2017, the State of Texas (if treated as its own nation) is the 7th largest oil producing nation in the world, with production totaling approximately 3.78 MMBOE/day. [9] The state also produces uranium. In past years, the state has also produced mercury, silver, and copper.

See also


  1. USGS Archived 2006-02-17 at the Wayback Machine .
  2. Spearing, Darwin. Roadside Geology of Texas. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1991. ISBN   978-0-87842-265-4 pp. 4–7
  3. Spearing, p. 7
  4. "The Permian Reef Complex (Delaware Basin) of West Texas-slide 1". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  5. Archived from the original on April 23, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2006.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Spearing, p. 8
  7. Spearing, p. 9
  8. 1 2 Spearing, pp. 10–11
  9. "The Texas Miracle: Only five countries now produce more oil than The Lone Star State - AEI". AEI. Retrieved 2018-02-22.

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