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Here is a photograph of Pitkin Limestone from the Ozark Mountains near Fox, Arkansas. This exposure displays a classic orthogonal joint set. The joints are the easy-to-see fractures that divide the bedrock into square blocks. Orthogonal means the joints formed at roughly 90 degree angles to each other, hence the resultant square blocks.
Joints are common features in sedimentary and crystalline bedrock, and they form in a variety of patterns in response to the stresses the rock has been subjected to. Essentially, bedrock is being compressed, and the joints form to relieve that pressure. The squeezing and resultant fracturing result from natural processes such as burial, erosion, and plate tectonics.
Joints are important because they convey information about stress-fields that have acted on the rocks in the past. They can also be useful for understanding the flow of fluids through a petroleum reservoir or aquifer when trying to maximize production from an oil or water well.
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Photos by Danny Rains
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