The 366 daily episodes in 2014 were chronological snapshots of earth history, beginning with the Precambrian in January and on to the Cenozoic in December. You can find them all in the index in the right sidebar. In 2015, the daily episodes for each month were assembled into monthly packages, and a few new episodes were posted. Now, the blog/podcast is on a weekly schedule with diverse topics, and the Facebook Page showcases photos on Mineral Monday and Fossil Friday. Thanks for your interest!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November 1. The Cretaceous begins

The Cretaceous Period, the third and last period of the Mesozoic Era, gets its name from the chalk of Cretaceous age in parts of Europe. Chalk is a soft, granular variety of limestone, calcium carbonate, that usually represents an accumulation of the microscopic shells of coccolithophores, which are single-celled phytoplankton – floating algae. The Latin word for chalk is creta, which gives its name to this geologic period. The geologic symbol used on maps is K, from the German word for chalk, Kreide.

Belgian geologist Jean d'Omalius d'Halloy proposed the name in 1822, basing it on rocks from the Paris Basin. 

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Fire and tsunami resulting from
the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Public Domain.
All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1755, was the date of a great earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal. The city was practically destroyed by the quake itself, whose magnitude was at least 8.5, and by the ensuing tsunami and fires. The death toll has been estimated at anywhere from 10,000 to 200,000, but the best modern estimates put it at around 45,000. The quake was felt as far away as Finland, and the tsunami reached heights of 20 meters – 66 feet – in North Africa. The tsunami also caused damage in England and Ireland and was noted across the Atlantic in the Caribbean.

The earthquake was centered at least 150 miles southwest of Lisbon, in the Atlantic Ocean, along the transform fault that marks the boundary between the European Plate and the African Place. That boundary is along the Azores-Gibraltar fault zone, a poorly understood and vaguely defined break in the crust. It’s poorly defined because Africa and Europe are pretty close to being locked together – but definitely not quite. They are still sliding obliquely alongside each other, with Europe moving to the east relative to Africa. Another way of thinking about the boundary is that the Atlantic Ocean, expanding from the mid-Atlantic Ridge, is not opening in a completely uniform way, so that the northern part, including Europe, is moving away from the ridge at a slightly faster rate than the southern part that includes Africa. The differential between them is enough to make significant earthquakes along the boundary.
—Richard I. Gibson

Image: Fire and tsunami resulting from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Public Domain.

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