Relative dating of geological events

Relative Time Relative time is the sequence of events without consideration of the amount of time.

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It is only by correlations that the conditions on different parts of Earth at any particular stage in its history can be deduced.

In addition, because sediment deposition is not continuous and much rock material has been removed by erosion, the fossil record from many localities has to be integrated before a complete picture of the evolution of life on Earth can be assembled.

When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.

When these regions are later exposed in uptilted portions of ancient continents, a history of terrestrial rock-forming events can be deduced.

These include some that establish a relative chronology in which occurrences can be placed in the correct sequence relative to one another or to some known succession of events.

Radiometric dating and certain other approaches are used to provide absolute chronologies in terms of years before the present.

Similarly, in geology, if distinctive granitic pebbles can be found in the sediment beside a similar granitic body, it can be inferred that the granite, after cooling, had been uplifted and eroded and therefore was not injected into the adjacent rock sequence.

Although with clever detective work many complex time sequences or relative ages can be deduced, the ability to show that objects at two separated sites were formed at the same time requires additional information.

Just as the use of the fossil record has allowed a precise definition of geologic processes in approximately the past 600 million years, absolute ages allow correlations back to Earth’s oldest known rocks formed more than 4 billion years ago.

In fact, even in younger rocks, absolute dating is the only way that the fossil record can be calibrated.

Using this established record, geologists have been able to piece together events over the past 635 million years, or about one-eighth of Earth history, during which time useful fossils have been abundant.

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