Simple map showing the four main physiographic regions of the southwestern United States.

Earth Science of the Southwestern United States

The place where you are right now has a rich geological history that is recorded by the rocks beneath you and the fossils that they may contain. The rocks and fossils reveal the movements of continents and the evolution of new forms of life. This history helps to explain why the Earth looks like it does today. It also explains things like the distributions of natural resources, from rare minerals to rich soils for agriculture. Studying Earth's ancient climate also helps us to make sense of how the climate is changing today and how it will affect us where we live.

The goal of this part of the [email protected] project is to explain the Earth science of the southwestern United States, which is defined here to include Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Major regions include the Colorado Plateau, the Basin and Range, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains.

Contents


Overviews of Southwestern U.S. Earth Science


Geologic History
Climate
Earth Hazards

Colorado Plateau Region

Southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, southwestern Colorado, and northwestern New Mexico.


Rocks
Fossils
Topography
Energy
Mineral Resources

Basin and Range Region

Southwestern New Mexico, southern and western Arizona, and western Utah.


Rocks
Fossils
Topography
Energy
Mineral Resources

Rocky Mountain Region

Central Colorado and northeastern Utah.


Rocks
Fossils
Topography
Energy
Mineral Resources

Great Plains Region

Eastern Colorado and New Mexico.


Rocks
Fossils
Topography
Energy
Mineral Resources

Resources

Lists of supplemental and teaching resources for the Earth science of the southwestern U.S., sorted by topic.


Resources

Credits

Most of the [email protected] content in the Here on Earth: Southwestern United States section is derived from The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Earth Science of the Southwestern USedited by Andrielle N. Swaby, Mark D. Lucas, and Robert M. Ross (published in 2016 by the Paleontological Research Institution; currently out of print). The citation for the original book is:

  • Swaby, A.N., M. D. Lucas, and R. M. Ross (eds.). 2016. The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Earth Science of the Southwestern US. Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, 458 pp.

The book was adapted for the web by Elizabeth J. Hermsen and Jonathan R. Hendricks in 2022. Changes include formatting and revisions to the text and images.

Authors for the original chapters adapted for the southwestern U.S. section of Here on Earth are as follows. Some of the content has been spread over multiple pages on this website, so links are not provided below:

  • Chapter 1. Geologic history of the Southwestern US: Lisa R. Fisher, Richard A. Kissel, and Warren D. Allmon
  • Chapter 2. Rocks of the Southwestern US: Lisa R. Fisher and Richard A. Kissel.
  • Chapter 3. Fossils of the Southwestern US: Warren D. Allmon and Richard A. Kissel.
  • Chapter 4. Topography of the Southwestern US: Bryan L. Isacks, Richard A. Kissel, and Warren D. Allmon.
  • Chapter 5. Mineral Resources of the Southwestern US: Thomas R. Fisher.
  • Chapter 6. Energy in the Southwestern US: Carlyn S. Buckler and Robert M. Ross.
  • Chapter 7. Soils of the Southwestern US: Richard A. Kissel and Judith T. Parrish.
  • Chapter 8. Climate of the Southwestern US: Ingrid H. H. Zabel, Judith T. Parrish, and Andrielle N. Swaby.
  • Chapter 9. Earth Hazards of the Southwestern US: Luke P. McCann and Andrielle N. Swaby.