Rock Strata Formation
Country: United States
Date: September 2008
How do the different color stripes appear on rocks?
Your question is too general for me to be able to provide a precise answer.
Since I do not know which rock you are considering I may give an answer which
is wildly inaccurate. GIVEN THAT PROVISO I will attempt to provide a general
answer about MOST striped rocks.
In general stripes on a rock are indicative of parallel layers within a rock
formation. Layers are representative of sediments laid down on the floor of a
body of water, such as the sea or a lake. Given that, layered rocks are almost
always sedimentary. (There can be layers of volcanic rock, but the layers are
usually quite thick, and so we are not aware of stripes as you describe.)
The layers of sediment are built up from sand and silt and other materials
carried into the lake or the sea by streams or rivers. As rainfall changes
through the year, so the amount and the type of sediment may change. A stream
swelled by winter rains can carry large amounts of coarse sediment with a lot
of rotting leaves. The same river in summer flows slowly and only carries a
small amount of fine silt. The changing nature of the sediment results in
variations of the rock that is formed - the amount of sediment affects the
depth of the layer, the size of the grains it contains affects the texture,
and the amount of organic material can change the colour.
Sediments showing clear annual layering are not the norm, but they are cot
rare. Almost all sedimentary rocks show some layering from variations resulting
from changes in their sediment source.
On the other hand, there are striped rocks which show no sign of layering, and
may not be sedimentary at all. Check out
www.wollemigems.com.au/creations/zebra_stone.html for some really strange
Tennant Creek AUSTRALIA
The different colored rocks are basically different minerals, or different
mixtures of minerals. For example, hematite (an ore of iron oxide) is mainly
red but can go to nearly black depending on how much weathering and oxidation
has taken place. Similarly, bauxite, which is an ore of aluminum can range in
color from red to pink to white.
Moreover, mixing different types of minerals can cause changes in the colors
of the rocks. Adding iron oxide to bauxite can make it appear blue.
The stripes or striation in rocks depend not only on the type of rocks or
minerals, but also on the weather pattern that deposited or affected the
rocks. For example, in the painted desert of Arizona, when the rocks or
sediment were deposited slowly, high concentrations of oxidized iron and
aluminum were deposited and this developed the red, orange and pink colors.
But in sections where the rocks were deposited rapidly under low oxygen
conditions (say, during a flood where sediment is rapidly formed underwater)
this tended to deposit minerals that were less oxidized and formed the blue
and gray colors.
In short, the stripes or striations in rocks, depend on the type of rock, how
they were deposited, and how succeeding weather patterns affected those rocks.
Greg (Roberto Gregorius)
Rocks can be divided into three big categories: (1) sedimentary, (2) igneous,
and (3) metamorphic.
Sedimentary rocks form layer by layer of inorganic deposits such as sand and
the exoskeletons of invertebrate animals. Sedimentary rocks form at the bottom
of lakes and oceans. Over very long times, with the combination of heat and
pressure the sand turns into sandstone (SiO2) and the exoskeletons turn into
limestone (CaCO3). These two rock types often have stripes because for a
relatively short time period other elements are present in the water. Iron
and copper are two metals that are colored in solution and they would mix
with the sand or limestone to form stripes of dark red (rust) from iron, and
green to green-blue from copper.
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Update: June 2012