Petrology of Sandstones in Western Pennsylvania

Uplift of the Appalachian Mountains occurred when the African continent collided with the North American continent during Carboniferous time (about 300 million years ago). This mountain building event is referred to as the Alleghanian orogeny. At the peak of collision, these mountains were some of the largest that ever formed on Earth and shaped the landscape that we see today across Pennsylvania. Part of the record of this uplift is contained in the grains of sand that were eroded from the mountains and transported westward by rivers. The extensive sandstone, siltstone, and coal deposits that underlie western Pennsylvania were formed by these river systems. Several students have conducted research to determine the composition of these sandstone deposits in order to reconstruct the long-eroded mountain uplifts.

Mike Flanik ’05, Ira Bradford ’03, and Jill Clemenich ’98 completed their senior projects and Josh Dailey ’06 completed an independent study on topics related to the sedimentary record of the Alleghanian orogeny. An outline of their research approach is shown to the right. Recent results of this research are published in Flanik et al 2005.