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Earth Science Week 2014: Our Geoheritage

Updated Monday 6th October 2014

Celebrate the geological phenomena that have rocked this world with Earth Science Week running from 13th to 19th October 2014.

Earth Science Week has landed! The event running from 13th to the 19th October 2014 has been hosted by the Geological Society since 2011 and this year focuses on the awareness and celebration of 'Our Geo-Heritage'. This will include exploring some of the iconic natural sites of geological interest such as Giant's Causeway and The Jurassic Coast as well as some less known areas that are just as remarkable. 

As part of the celebration, we have compiled a range of FREE resources under each section consisting of all things to do with earth sciences. Choose from the following sections:

You can view the Geological Society's 100 Great Geosites through the BBC website  or by selecting the online clickable map

The geoheritage of the UK

The honey coloured limestone Cotswold Cottage was built in the early 1600s in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, England. Creative commons image Icon Mala C under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license Limestone Cotswold cottage built in 1600s, Gloucestershire It's no secret that the United Kingdom has extremely diverse landscapes across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With this comes a rich geological heritage including rocks and minerals from an array of different ages. Most of the oldest rocks can be found in the north west of Scotland and the youngest rocks in the south east of England. It was this diversity of rocks over a relatively small area that allowed geology to flourish as a science in the UK in the 19th Century. 

The varied geology of the UK has been the source of many natural resources throughout history. Tin and other metals have been extracted from Cornish granites since before Roman times, iron ore and coal in the midlands, northern England and central Scotland fuelled the industrial revolution while oil and gas deposits of the North Sea have provided much of our energy in recent years.

In addition to the many natural geoheritage sites, our geology is reflected in buildings, both large and small, across the country. Think of Cotswold cottages made of honey-coloured limestone, the flint churches of southern and eastern England and the granite city of Aberdeen, all reflect the local geology. 

Explore more on the UK's geology in our FREE course or podcasts

Geological diversity in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. A formation of shapely rocks. Creative commons image Icon Chris Lofqvist under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland Northern Ireland is rich in geological sites, with dark volcanic rocks resting on white chalk, and is home to some beyond-ancient metamorphosed sedimentary rocks that developed around 600 million years ago.

This small country includes breathtaking places that are great for both tourism and geological interest such as the spectacular Marble Arch Caves, which formed at the end of the Ice Ages, and the well-known Giant's Causeway, the result of volcanic eruptions during the formation of the Atlantic ocean. 

The strong geoheritage has proved beneficial economically with a significant proportion of Northern Ireland's economy coming from its plentiful natural resources, particularly in the geologically rich area of County Fermanagh

You can find out more about Northern Ireland's unique geological features in the article and series of podcasts below.

Uncover more on Northern Ireland's geoheritage

The Earth's tectonic plates 

Fingal's Cave in Scotland - known for its hexagonal basalt columns. Creative commons image Icon Seth M under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland Many of the UK's geoheritage sites were formed from major events in Earth history by the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates. While we are no longer on the margin of a plate, the British Isles have been at numerous times in the geological past and it is the motion of those plates and their collisions and break-up that has caused the UK to be shaped and moved to where it is now. The effects of plate movements around 700 million years produced spectacular pillow lava in Anglesey while the opening of the Atlantic Ocean 60 Ma ago produced the hexagonally jointed basalt pillars in Fingal's Cave in Staffa, Scotland.

These geological features provide us with clues concerning the Earth's history. They allow us to describe the evolution of the British Isles from a time when the continents comprised two large landmasses Laurentia and Gondwana to the present day pattern of land and sea with the UK lying on the periphery of the continent of Europe. 

If you want to learn more on plate movements make sure you select our incredible interactive or FREE course below.

Discover more about tectonic plates and continental drifting

Geological phenomena and the Earth's climate

Seven Sisters cliffs showing the chalky geological features. Creative commons image Icon Andrew M Whitman under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license Seven Sisters' Cliffs, Sussex A number of the geoheritage sites celebrated today for their natural beauty hold clues of the Earth's past, and the way in which surface environments have changed with time. The chalk cliffs of Sussex record a time when much of England was submerged beneath a warm, tropical sea and the Earth's atmosphere much richer in carbon dioxide than today. Thick deposits of limestone reflect the conditions of the greehouse world - one that we may be heading towards if we continue burning fossil fuels at the present rate. By contrast, much of East Anglia is buried beneath deposits formed during the last advance of the glaciers during the most recent Ice Age while the landscape of Scotland, Wales and northern England owes much to the effects of glacial activity. 

Find out more on geological phenomena and climate change in our podcast and FREE course below.

Learn more on geology and climate change

Want to take it further? Try an OU course

 

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