The United Kingdom and Ireland
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The United Kingdom and Ireland

December 24, 2005

This image shows portions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland. From a geologic perspective, the U.K. (and Ireland) is highly variable.

The inquiry into the islands' formation and explanations of observed patterns has contributed significantly to the advance of the science of geology.

The oldest rocks from the islands are found in the Northwest of Scotland and are (metamorphic) gneisses, dated to about 2.7 million years before present.

Until about 500 million years ago, the portions of the islands belonged to two different continents, separated by 7000 kilometers (4500 miles).

The Northern and Southern portions of the islands were joined together by the process of plate tectonics (continental drift).

Throughout their history, the islands have been on the move, ranging from warm tropical locations south of the Equator to between 30 and 40 degrees North latitude. They show evidence of massive geomorphologic changes, including volcanic activity, massive earthquakes, uplift and erosion, glacial events, and sea level rise.

The British Geological Survey uses satellite images, along with aeromagnetic, radiometric, gravity and geochemical data to produce highly accurate geologic maps of the region.

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