Dr. Milo Barham, from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said his team has developed a metric that can be used to learn about the evolution of the Earth. All you need is sand.

According to the lead author of the study, the metric allows you to determine the “age footprint” of the mineral zircon, which can be found in the sand. This will help to learn more about the evolution of the Earth’s surface over the past few billion years.

Much of the early geological record has been lost to erosion, but long-lived minerals like zircon form deposits that contain information about the planet’s past. In particular, about changes in the environment, the development of the biosphere, the evolution of continents and the accumulation of mineral resources.

Milo Barham, doctor and lead author

This new approach allows for a better understanding of ancient geology: it will help to reconstruct the location and movement of tectonic plates on Earth.

Beaches around the world faithfully reflect the history of the geological past of our planet. There are billions of years of Earth’s history in every grain of sand, and our technology will help unlock that information.

Milo Barham, doctor and lead author

Barham notes that zircons contain chemical elements that make it possible to date and reconstruct the conditions for the formation of minerals. This information can also be used to judge the evolution of continents.

How the Earth changes as a result of erosion can be seen in the age structure of zircon grains. For example, the deposits on the western and eastern coasts of South America are completely different. On the west side, there are many young grains that were formed as the earth’s crust sank under the continent, causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the Andes.

While things were quieter on the east coast. There are both old and young grains.