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Why Do Rocks the Size of Cars Suddenly Break From Cliffs?

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Channel: Seeker
Categories: Environmental   |   Geology   |   Science  
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Random rockfalls are still one of the biggest mysteries in geology - and figuring out what triggers them is an urgent quest in an area with millions of annual visitors.

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Why Rockfalls Happen on Beautiful Days in Yosemite
"Rockfalls happen about 60 to 70 times per year in Yosemite, but usually they have an obvious cause. A winter storm has blown through, or there was an earthquake. But some, like the Happy Isles incident, happen on beautiful, clear summer days for no apparent reason. Now a pair of scientists says they know what’s behind these rockfalls—it’s the warm, sunny weather itself."

What Is A Rockfall?
"Rockfalls are a natural and dynamic geologic process involving the detachment and rapid downward movement of rock. Historical records indicate that more than 1,000 rockfalls have occurred in the park during the past 150 years. Massive piles of "talus" or rock debris at the base of Yosemite Valley's cliffs are reminders of these dramatic events."

Second Yosemite Rockfall in Two Days Injures One at El Capitan
"Ageologist had inspected the face of El Capitan in a helicopter during the afternoon and ... more scientists were working into the evening, using lidar scanning technology and computer modeling, to determine the size of the rockfall and how it broke away."


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Written By: Paige Keipper

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