The Rainbow Mountains Of China Are Earth’s Paint Canvas
The rainbow mountains of China’s Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park are a world wonder. These well-known Chinese mountains are remarkable for their unusual colours, which resemble a rainbow painted on top of undulating slopes.
This is only one example of how geology has piqued our interest, prompting us to wonder, “What makes rainbow mountains so colourful?” I’ll go over the diagenetic and mineralogical processes that result in red, green, yellow, and blue.
The 200-square-kilometre Zhangye Danxia National Park is located in Gansu Province in northwest China. The monument was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 and attracts a large number of Chinese and foreign tourists.
What Caused the Rainbow Mountains to Form?
The Rainbow Mountains are cretaceous sandstone and siltstone rocks that were imported to China prior to the formation of the Himalayas. Sand and dirt were mixed with iron and trace minerals, which contributed significantly to the colours we see today.
The Indian Plate clashing with the Eurasian Plate about 55 million years ago disrupted what was formerly horizontal and horizontal strata. The same mechanism that wrapped up what were flat sandstones in the Rainbow Mountains we see today wrapped up what were flat sandstones in the Rainbow Mountains we see today.
The procedure elevated the mountains, revealing the underground rocky evidence. Climate and erosion have degraded the continent’s strata of siliciclastic rocks, exposing underground formations with varying mineralogy and chemistry. As a result, a remarkable range of colours may be seen across the Rainbow Mountains.
So, now that you know how rainbow mountains are formed, let’s speak about how they gained their current colour. Runoff from rainwater transports sandstone grains and deposits trace minerals between the grains.
This rain can accumulate to the point where there is no longer space between the individual seeds, squeezing them together. This procedure transmits the trace of the minerals listed below and enables for the international colouring of sandstones around the world.
Unlike the Fountain Formation, which flows from the Flatirons, Red Rocks Park, and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, the primary colour is a deep red sandstone.
The red colour is created by iron oxide and cement adhering between sandstone grains, often known as hematite (Fe2O3). This is the same process that occurs when a piece of metal is exposed to rain and develops a red layer of rust on the outside.
The environment, when combined with water and oxygen, converts basic iron into iron oxide, which is distinguished by its dark red colour. The Rainbow Mountains are notable for the iron oxide structure of their sandstone Danxia.
Iron oxides are frequently dark red in colour. However, in other circumstances, the oxides generate various colours. Oxidized limonite or goethite, for example, will yield brown or yellow sandstone, while magnetite can develop black impurities in sandstones.
Sulphur produces a golden metallic colour if there is any iron sulphide present. Meanwhile, chlorite clay or silicate metal is commonly responsible for the green colour. These are a few instances of how sandstones can be changed into calculable materials during diagenesis.
Fortunately, you do not have to travel to northwest China to witness this process. Get out and walk around, taking in the scenery from above and below. If you look for red rock everywhere, you’re more likely to find iron oxide-dyed sandstone.
Let us know what you discovered in the comments section below.
Finally, I’ll leave you with some stunning images of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains.