Geology and Tectonics of Our Area

Landscape-AndaluciaSpain is a very beautiful mountainous country and Andalucía is particularly blessed with high Sierras and exquisite mountain ranges such as the Sierra Nevada. These mountains and ranges were all formed by geological and tectonic activity many millions of years ago but the story hasn’t finished yet.

Erosion and the faulting and folding of mountains have taken their toll over the years and given our mountains their wonderful rugged shapes but tectonic activity still occurs. Andalucía is a minor earthquake zone and although we have not suffered much recently, the area certainly has in the past, and may well do so soon again, as indicated by the recent large but non-damaging quake in Huelva! More of this later-first some background.

Geologically Andalucía can be divided into three main areas: the Macizo Ibérico in the North which includes the Sierra Morena, it is the oldest part with rocks dating back to 570 million years ago; the Depression of the Guadalquivir in the middle of Andalucía is the most geologically recent area with rocks of less than 65million years old; and the southern part of Andalucia including all of the Mediterranean is known as the Cordillera Bética with rocks from the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras-dating from 570 to 65 million years old. The highest part of Andalucia is here with “el Mulhacén” topping the list at 3472 metres. In Almeria more or less parallel to the coast, are massive volcanic rock structures.

However, the rocks with which we are most familiar with around here aren’t volcanic rocks but metamorphic limestone. This karst scenery can be particularly charming with limestone pavements –flat sections of limestone with gaps between them as in a man-made pavement and of course the craggy eroded mountaintops.

Torrox and Manilva have particularly spectacular rocks. Because limestone dissolves there are many caves around here-Nerja and St Michaels in Gibraltar being the most spectacular. Sandstone is another common rock around here and in certain parts is very visible with its orangey red colour.

Andalucía has changed a lot over the millennia the Cordillera Betica was once an island when the Mediterranean and the Atlantic were joined up Rather fun I think! But the movements of the African and the Euro-Asian tectonic plates have changed all that and are continuing to change the relief and structure of the area.

Our area of Andalucía is right on the border between these plates which is why earthquakes are regularly recorded here. Records of earthquakes in Andalucía go back to 365 AD but the first accurate record is of the earthquake in Carmona, near Seville, in 1504. This killed 100 people.

The year 1522 saw another, 2500 people killed in Almeria in a quake and in 1884 over 800 deaths were recorded around the Arenas del Rey area with 10,000 houses destroyed. Just out of our area in Lisbon in 1755, 20,000 people were killed following a quake and a large tsunami. This was in the Cape Saint Vincent area which was also the epicentre of the last large quake.

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