What Is Shearing in Geology?

By Tiffany Bennett; Updated April 24, 2017

In the world of geology, the term “shearing” describes a distinct motion of two rock surfaces against each other. It is most often caused by intense pressure under the earth’s crust.

Description

Shearing can be described as the lateral movement of one rock surface against another. This motion alters the rocks, causing them to change shape as they slide against each other.

Effects

Many times, shearing causes minerals to split in a formation known as cleavage. Under other circumstances, the rocks develop a pattern of parallel lines called a schist.

Where It Occurs

Shearing commonly occurs along the edges of tectonic plates, although it may occur in other places as well. Most often it takes place between 10 and 20 kilometers beneath the earth’s surface. If the same process occurred at the surface, it would result in fracturing and faulting.

Zones

Widespread shearing results in geological features called shearing zones. These zones may cover several miles or just a few centimeters.

About the Author

Tiffany Bennett is a recent graduate from Toccoa Falls College. While earning her degree in counseling and psychology, she discovered that she enjoys various forms of writing. She is currently living in Athens, Ga., and looking forward to beginning a graduate degree program in international affairs at the University of Georgia.