The Colorado Plateau is a huge region covering parts of four states. It’s over a mile higher than its surroundings, but its layers are remarkably flat. How did this region, littered with marine fossils, rise into the sky?  Three American scientists writing in Nature last week believe they have a mechanism: it heated from underneath and rose like a cake.

“The forces that drove rock uplift of the low-relief, high elevation,tectonically stable Colorado Plateau are the subject of long-standing debate,” they acknowledged. This vast area in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona “experienced ~2 km of rock uplift without significant internal deformation.” That fact is clearly evident at the lookouts of the Grand Canyon. Geological layers extend as flat as a pancake as far as the eye can see. It takes a lot of delicately-balanced force to lift up a region this large without deforming it. Imagine how you would you try to pick up a Guinness World Record layer cake the size of a city block and keep it from breaking….

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