Monday, March 3, 2014

Episode 203 (3-3-14): Water and the Rock Cycle

Click to listen to episode (3:03)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of March 3, 2014.

This week, we feature another series of mystery sounds.  Have a listen for about 35 seconds, and see if you can guess what above-ground, underground, and underwater cycle connects these sounds.  And here’s a hint: This cycle rocks around the clock and around the earth.


If you guessed the rock cycle, you’re right!  The sounds were limestone being turned into “Hokie Stone” for a Virginia Tech building, the James River at Richmond, Chesapeake Bay waves, and a sound representation of seismic waves caused by the August 2011 earthquake in Virginia.  The rock cycle concept describes processes constantly occurring all over the globe to form rocks, move them, and transform them among three types: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.  This week’s sounds illustrate some of these processes, including some of water’s roles.  The limestone being chipped by stonemasons is sedimentary rock, formed from parts of organisms buried under an ancient sea.  Flowing waters like the James break down rocks and move the resulting sediments.  Marine waters like the Chesapeake receive sediments, erode shoreline rocks, and provide habitat for creatures whose structures may some distant day become limestone.  And earthquakes indicate underground movements of tectonic plates, like those responsible millions of years ago for uplifting deeply buried rocks, including Hokie Stone.  Thanks to Tyler Miller, Llyn Sharp, and the Virginia Tech Museum of Geosciences for providing the earthquake sounds.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 3/3/14]

New River cliffs showing layers of sedimentary rock, Foster Falls, Virginia (Wythe County), July 15, 2012.  Photo courtesy of Anne Jacobsen.


The sound-wave representation of the August 23, 2011, earthquake centered in Louisa County, Virginia, was produced by Tyler Miller for the Virginia Tech Museum of Geosciences, using data from the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory.  More information about Mr. Miller is available at  Thanks to Llyn Sharp of the Geosciences Museum for providing the recording and for permission to use it.

The sound of the James River falls was recorded February 17, 2014, at Brown’s Island in Richmond.  Thanks to Michael Martz for providing this recording.

The sound of stone-masons working with limestone was recorded on the Virginia Tech campus on October 31, 2013.

This episode of Virginia Water Radio is designed to support teaching of Virginia Science Standard of Learning 5.7 (January 2010 version of standards), on the rock cycle and other kinds of changes on the earth’s surface.
  For other Virginia Water Radio episodes related to earthquakes, please see the following links:
Episode 133, 10-22-12: Riverbed Research on Earthquakes; Episode 132 (10-15-12): Great Southeast Shakeout Earthquake Drill.

Sources Used
Information about the use of limestone for “Hokie Stone” on the Tech campus

Virginia Tech, “Virginia Tech’s Stone of Tradition, online (as a PDF file) at

On the rock cycle generally
Idaho Museum of Natural History,

On the rock cycle in Virginia
College of William and Mary Department of Geology, online at

Radford University, online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Birth of the Mountains: The Geologic Story of the Southern Appalachian Mountains,” online (as PDF) at

On earthquakes generally

U.S. Geologic Survey, “Earthquake Topics for Education,” online at

On generating sound waves from earthquake seismic waves
U.S. Geological Survey, “Listening to Earthquakes,” online at

John N. Louie, October 1996 notes, for the Nevada Seismic Laboratory, University of Nevada-Reno, online at

For More Information

U.S. Geological publications and activities related to the rock cycle are compiled at this online link:

Virginia Water News and Other Information
            For news, events, and resources relevant to Virginia's water resources, grouped into categories, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at