Local Volcano Gets Scientific Attention

Brent Finnegan -- November 22nd, 2010

Mole Hill, that lonely mound of earth just west of Harrisonburg is a lot younger than the rest of the mountains that define the Shenandoah Valley. And the rocks that make up the formation are significantly different than those commonly found in nearby George Washington National Forest. (Previously mentioned on hburgnews.com)

Mole Hill

Photo of Mole Hill by Jstuby, public domain.

Very little is known about Rockingham County’s lone volcano, but that’s beginning to change. JMU geology professor Elizabeth Johnson got permission from the landowner to study the area, and takes students to explore the volcanic formation. (Disclosure: I’m currently employed by the JMU Office of Public Affairs. My tenure in that office ends this week)

Jenny Marder reports for PBS News Hour:

Several times a semester, Liz Johnson, a geochemist and a James Madison University professor, packs her geology students into a van and heads west on Route 33 from Harrisonburg, beyond the local youth center and the Miracle Car Wash, and through the Mennonite part of town. As the van rounds a turn, the mountain looms suddenly into view.

Most of the rocks in Virginia’s Valley and Ridge Region are sedimentary, and date back roughly 300 to 540 million years to the early Paleozoic Era. But Mole Hill, which rises 1,895 feet above sea level, is geologically much younger. Radiometric dating shows that it was formed about 48 million years ago, in the Eocene Era, a time in which the region was otherwise tectonically quiet. “It may not seem obvious if you don’t know a lot about rocks,” says Callan Bentley, a local geologist and professor at Northern Virginia Community College. “But if you’ve got a whole bunch of sedimentary rocks that make up a province, then what the hell is a volcano doing there?” (read more)

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6 Responses to “Local Volcano Gets Scientific Attention”

  1. Joe says:

    What are these wackos talking about? Clearly God put this Mole Hill here about 4200 years ago maybe so Noah could disembark. Let’s make a mountain out of a mole hill…

    • kuato says:

      Here is what “Bob” had to say about this in response to the article on PBS:

      I prefer to use other presuppositions when interpreting these things, rather than the evolutionary ones. Thus I would say that the sedimentary rock was laid down during Noah’s Flood, and that these volcanoes occurred during that time period, or in the roughly 4350 years that has passed since then.

      There is scientific evidence that supports a scenario more like that than the evolutionary one proposed above.

      So – evidently Joe, you are not far off.

  2. Where there is an extinct Volcano, there will be Dikes! Why is no one talking about the Dikes!

  3. Cpl. Hicks says:

    Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

  4. Brynn says:

    *Sigh* When will people learn to stay on topic? Anyway, this is nothing at all out of the ordinary for Virginia. I have also studied Virginia’s geology and volcanology history and have known long before now Mole Hill is an extinct volcano. It is good to study this and come to an understanding of it and what past potential it had. I am from Harrisonburg Virginia and is now living in El Salvador studying the volcanoes here. After Virginia’s August 23 Earthquake and knowing the quake was very shallow, it led me to see what kind of activity is starting to occur under Virginia soil. And knowing Virginia’s history….nothing can be crossed out or forgotten.

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