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Coal Creation


Between 200 and 300 million years ago, long before there were any reptiles, birds or mammals, in many parts of the world there existed warm and human climatic conditions. These conditions favored the growth of huge tropical ferns and giant trees, which grew and died in vast swamp areas. The dead plants fell into the boggy waters, which tended to exclude oxygen and bacteria, so that they only partially decomposed to produce a peat-like material. This fossilized plant debris was the beginning of coal, but only the beginning.

Vegetation continued to grow for many generations and centuries, forming vast, thick peat beds which were later to turn into coal. After a time the areas of swamp gradually became submerged by shallow seas, where they were covered by sediment. these sediments would later become sedimentary rock. This cycle of swamp followed by submersion was often repeated a number of times, so that a sequence of horizontal bands of peat and inorganic, sedimentary rock was built up. This formed the first stage, called the biochemical stage. Coal formation occurred in other geologic periods as well.

Subsequently, the bands of peat were altered by the action of pressure and temperature during the second, or geochemical stage, to form the various kinds of coal found today. As much as a 20-fold reduction in the thickness of the original plant deposits sometimes occurred. During the course of time these horizontal coal seams were further altered as they became folded, tilted and eroded. Much of this action was due to the motion of the continents, as mountains formed and were then worn away. The study of fossils is called paleontology. The creation of coal from fossils is part of geology.

Trade Associations:

Geological Society of America - includes earth scientists at all levels of expertise and from all sectors: academic, government, business, and industry.

Yahoo Sites:

Science: Earth Sciences: Geology and Geophysics.
Business and Economy: Companies: Scientific: Geology and Geophysic.
Science: Earth Sciences: Geology and Geophysics: Exploration Geophysics.
Computers and Internet: Software: Scientific: Geology and Geophysics.

Regulation: The science of coal creation is regulated primarily by peer review of association memberships, research grants, and publication in scientific journals.

Government information:

Energy Information Administration (home page)


International Journal of Coal Geology - highly technical but excellent. Many related Elsevier journals.

Other sources:

International Humic Substances Society - organization for professionals in the coal, soil, and water sciences with interests in humic substances.
-- Huge Site with lists of search engines and links.
Museum of Paleontology
of the University of California at Berkeley.
Plant Fossils of West Virginia - interesting article, together with graphics, of plant fossils found in coal strata, by Monte Hieb.

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