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Name: Abigail
Status: Student
Grade: 6-8
Location: WA
Country: United States
Date: March 2007

What percentage of the rock cycle can humans view from above the earth's surface?

Good question. Humans can see around half the rock cycle on the surface.

We see the formation of extrusive igneous rocks at active volcanoes.

The breakdown of rock by mechanical and chemical weathering goes on around us all the time. But, usually this goes on so slowly that we do not really notice it.

We can see sedimentary rocks forming on land and in the oceans. Again, this is usually very slow, but not always. Chemical sedimentary rock is being deposited quickly enough in hot spring areas like Yellowstone National Park for people to see year-to-year changes.

What we cannot see is formation of intrusive igneous and most metamorphic rocks. These rocks are created underground. Intrusive igneous rock needs to cool slowly so a think blanket of rock above it is needed.

Although there may be some places where metamorphic rock forms at the surface, most of these rocks need hot water, higher pressures and they form underground as well.

We can "see" the formation of intrusive rocks using seismic surveying: molten rock reacts differently to seismic energy than solid rock.

Hope this helps.

Bob Avakian
Oklahoma State University

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