Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 23

MOUNTAIN CURIOS

Escarpment
compensation for the Appalachians would
predict that the region of high elevation
should be much broader and smoother than
is observed. Notably, the concept of isostasy
has a hard time explaining the abrupt nature
of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. This is because isostasy usually assumes that the crust
has a uniform strength.
This concept of strength can be illustrated
by considering the flexure of a wooden plank
when a heavy object is placed upon it. For a
coherent wooden span-one that has no cuts
or defects so that it has uniform strength-
a heavy load causes the plank to bend into
an arc. However, if the piece of wood does
have a cut or major structural defect (that
is, a zone of weakness), the pattern resulting
from the imposed load will be significantly
changed.
This latter case is what our study argues

may be happening beneath the Southern Appalachians: although the mountains are supported by crustal buoyancy, zones of weakness within the crust may modulate exactly
how the crust responds to that upward push.
Our numerical simulations show that such a
phenomenon could produce sharp topography like what we see in the Blue Ridge Escarpment today.
OK, enough science. Ready to go see this
unusual sharp break in the topography? Here
are three great places:
* Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina:
From here, one can see how the low-relief,
low-elevation Piedmont abruptly gives way
to the high elevations of the Southern Appalachians. Just watch your car's brakes on
the way down-U.S. Highway 276 here really
demonstrates the impressive steepness of
the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

* Table Rock State Park, South Carolina:
From the lofty viewpoint at the top of the
eponymous landform, one can look northwards to again see the sharp break between
the Appalachians and the adjacent Piedmont.
Steep in places but overall fantastic, the trail
that leads up the mountain really instills respect for the magnitude of the Escarpment.
* Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina:
Driving along the Linn Cove Viaduct-itself
an engineering marvel-inspires an appreciation for the impressive geology and geography of the Blue Ridge.
For more information, the curious reader
can find the complete study here:
BlueRidgeCountry.com/Escarpment
Benjamin Murphy completed this research
while a PhD student at Oregon State University,
and he has since moved on to a postdoctoral
position with the USGS.

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

23


http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com/Escarpment

Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020

Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 10
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 11
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 21
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 23
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 31
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 33
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 36
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 66
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover4
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