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ARTICLE

Absolute dating

Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find. They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of ...

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Relative dating

Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence. The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy (layers of rock are called strata) ...

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Types of volcanic rock

Rocks are not all the same. Some are heavy, some are light. Others are dark, while some can be almost pure white. Even igneous rocks that are all formed from magma in the Earth’s mantle can look ...

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Seismic waves

When an earthquake occurs, the shockwaves of released energy that shake the Earth and temporarily turn soft deposits, such as clay, into jelly (liquefaction) are called seismic waves, from the ...

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Plate tectonics, volcanoes and earthquakes

The Earth rumbles and a hiss of steam issues from the top of Mt Ruapehu. Are these two events related? Is the earthquake caused by the volcano? Or is the steam caused by the earthquake? Tectonic ...

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Carbonate chemistry

Calcium carbonate is the principal mineral component of limestone. Its chemical and physical properties lie behind the modern-day uses of limestone as well as the unique limestone landscapes of ...

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Under the Earth’s surface

The Earth is an enormous place. There is so much that we don’t yet know about what happens on the surface of the Earth, so how could we possibly know about what happens deep down below the ...

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Limestone uses

The calcium carbonate content of limestone rocks has been used from the earliest civilisations, dating back to 14,000 BCE, to its extensive use in modern times. It is a valuable resource that ...

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Plate tectonics

We can blame plate tectonics for many catastrophes over time – earthquakes, volcanoes, geothermal activity, tsunamis and landslides – while people living on mountain ranges or small islands can ...

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Liquefaction

Liquefaction is a process that temporarily turns firm ground into a liquid. During the Canterbury earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011, liquefaction caused silt and fine sand to boil ...

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The rock cycle

The Earth is an active planet. Earthquakes shake and volcanoes erupt. Sections of the crust are on the move. Mountains push up and wear down. These and many other processes contribute to the rock ...

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Types of volcanoes

Everyone knows what a volcano looks like – isn’t it a steep-sided cone with wisps of ash coming from the top, just like Rangitoto, White Island, Mt Ngāuruhoe or Mt Ruapehu? But what about small ...

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Date a dinosaur

Dinosaurs used to live in New Zealand. We know this because their fossils have been found in a few places. The fossils of a number of different dinosaurs were found at the Mangahouanga Stream, in ...

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Auckland’s volcanoes

The city of Auckland is built on a volcanic field. There are 50 volcanoes within an area of 1,000 square kilometres, forming the hills, lakes and basins of the city. Rangitoto Island was formed ...

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The Alpine Fault

In the South Island of New Zealand, the boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates can be seen on land. This is unlike the North Island boundary, where a subduction zone is under ...

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Continental drift

The Earth’s continents have not always been where they are at present. If you look at a map of the world, you might notice what Alfred Wegener noticed – that the continents look as if they could ...

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New Zealand’s unique ecology

New Zealand has a rich and unique range of plants, animals and fungi. The level of distinctive biodiversity is as high as such world-renowned ecosystems as the Galapagos Islands. So how have our ...

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The moving Earth

Isn’t it funny to think that the Earth is moving! If we stand perfectly still and look into the distance, the Earth appears to be perfectly still, too. But the Earth is actually moving in many ...

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Magma on the move

The high temperatures (900°C) and extremely high pressures that occur in the mantle layer of the Earth are enough to melt rock. The high pressure changes the rock into a viscous semisolid called ...

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Limestone landscapes

Limestone is one of the most common sedimentary rocks found in New Zealand. Eye-catching features such as caves, sinkholes and spectacular skyline landscapes are often associated with limestone ...

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