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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/357

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347
RHYTHMS AND GEOLOGIC TIME.

narrow covers of physical limitation; and there the matter rests for the present.

The rocks which were formed as sediments show many traces of rhythm. Some are composed of layers, thin as paper, which alternate in color, so that when broken across they exhibit delicate banding. In the time of their making there was a periodic change in the character of the mud that settled from the water. Others are banded on a larger scale; and there are also bandings of texture where the color is uniform. Many formations are divided into separate strata, as though the process of accretion had been periodically interrupted. Series of hard strata are often separated by films or thin layers of softer material. Strata of two kinds are sometimes seen to alternate through many repetitions. Borings in the delta of the Mississippi show soils and remains of trees at many levels, alternating with river silts. The rock series in which coal occurs are monotonous repetitions of shale and sandstone. Belgian geologists have been so impressed by the recurrence of short sequences of strata that they have based an elaborate system of rock notation upon it.

Passing to still greater units, the large aggregates of strata sometimes called systems show in many cases a regular sequence, which Newberry called a "circle of deposition." When complete, it comprises a sandstone or conglomerate, at base, then shale, limestone, shale and sandstone. This sequence is explained as the result of the gradual encroachment, or transgression, as it is called, of the sea over the land and its subsequent recession.

In certain bogs of Scandinavia deep accumulations of peat are traversed horizontally by layers including tree stumps in such way as to indicate that the ground has been alternately covered by forest and boggy moss. The broad glaciers of the Ice age grew alternately smaller and larger—or else were repeatedly dissipated and reformed—and their final waning was characterized by a series of halts or partial readvances, recorded in concentric belts of ice-brought drift. Of these belts, called moraines of recession, Taylor enumerates seventeen in a single system.

In explanation of these and other repetitive series incorporated in the structure of the earth's crust, a variety of rhythmic causes have been adduced; and mention will be made of the more important, beginning with those which have the character of original rhythms.

A river flowing through its delta clogs its channel with sediment, and from time to time shifts its course to a new line, reaching the sea by a new mouth. Such changes interrupt and vary sedimentation in neighboring parts of the sea. Storms of rain make floods, and each flood may cause a separate stratum of sediment. Storms of wind give destructive force to the waves that beat the shore, and each storm may cause the deposit of an individual layer of sediment. Varying winds may