History

Shaping the Earth Through Cataclysm

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Though we often think of the Earth as changing slowly, some events are so catastrophic that they change the landscape irrevocably. Some 15,000 years ago, a massive lake covered what is now Missoula, Montana. Dammed in by a 2,000-foot-tall wall of glacial ice, this lake contained more water than Lakes Ontario and Erie combined. But when the ice dam broke, the lake drained in days, sending a deluge across the Pacific Northwest.

The floodwaters carved new canyons and waterfalls, left massive ripples in the landscape, and deposited rocks from thousands of kilometers away as they raged their way to the sea. It was one of the most massive floods the Earth has ever seen. And, incredibly, it happened over and over as the lake refilled and broke again. Check out this Be Smart video for even more of this incredible story. (Image and video credit: Be Smart)

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