JUL 19, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

What is the rock cycle and why is it important?

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When we look at a rock, we often just focus on its size and appearance. Is it light or heavy? Dark or shiny? But there is far more to rocks than simply how they look. Did you know rocks play an important role in the types of energy sources we use to live daily, to include fossil fuels and even the soil we use to grow our food? Long before we use rocks for these purposes, they undergo a process known plainly as the “rock cycle”, which is a series of processes that create and transform the types of rocks within the Earth’s crust.

The three types of rocks that undergo these processes are sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic, and each undergo physical transformations via melting, cooling, eroding, compacting, or deforming. Sedimentary rocks are primarily found in water and are formed by the clumping of materials, metamorphic have been literally morphed due to immense pressure and heat, and igneous rocks are volcanic rocks that came to the surface in the form of lava or magma. But why is the rock cycle important?

As stated, rocks play an important role in our everyday lives, and understanding the rock cycle gives us a better understanding as to how we can use them for our benefit. The breakdown of rocks eventually form the soil that we use to grow our plants, and scientists and engineers study the rock cycle with the goal of locating the correct energy sources and building materials, as well. The rock cycle also plays a role in the development of our currency by finding the right gems, diamonds, and rubies.

What other aspects of our daily lives do you think are commandeered by the rock cycle? Do you think other planets have something similar to the rock cycle here on Earth? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

Sources: National Geographic, Lumen, Sciencing

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

MSc in Geological Sciences
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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