Skip Navigation

Inside the Earth - Look Into the Crystal Ball

Have you ever been hiking along the trail in the foothills of northern Utah, or even in the badlands near Capitol Reef National park in southern Utah, and stumbled across sea shells? If you haven't, trust me - they are there. You can find fossils and remains of aquatic organisms in some of the highest and driest places on Earth. How is that possible? How did they get there?

Look closely at the USGS animation above. Notice that North America and Utah begin at the top left section of the globe. As the animation occurs, North America moves away from the other continents. The land that makes up our state used to be much closer to the equator. How would you characterize the climate of equatorial locations?

Did you describe the equator as being warm, moist, green, tropical? Well, when Utah was in that location, there was a similar climate here. Ancient Lake Bonneville in the north and inland seas in the south dominated the landscape. The organisms in those climates lived, died, and left their remains. These remains formed fossils. During the time these fossils formed, different types of rocks formed than those being formed now. Geological processes have changed the shape, elevation, and location of the land, causing a major shift in the climate here.

Try It!
Can you predict the effects on other Earth systems from the plate movement and interactions that are described in this unit? Write a short story detailing a change in the landscape from plate movement, and how it affects the weather, climate, and life in that area. Things that you might include in your short story are:

  • How would volcanic eruptions affect weather and climate?
  • What effect would mountain building have on waterways?
  • How could uplift and elevation change affect animal and plant diversity?
  • What effect could upwelling from ocean vents have on the biomass of the area?

Be creative with your writing. You could take the point of view of an organism in the area, a mountain, volcano, or even the energy of an earthquake. You are not limited to the examples listed above.


  1. What differences exist between the story you created and the stories of your friends or classmates?
  2. Who created the most unique story?
    • Why was this story so interesting to read?
utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.