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Anthracite Subregion

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About the Anthracite Subregion

The Anthracite Subregion is a region within the Ridge and Valley system of the Appalachians, located entirely in Pennsylvania, characterized by its richness in Anthracite coal, a metamorphosed, and relatively uncommon type of coal that is purer and generally burns hotter and cleaner than most coal.

The underlying rocks here consist of a mix of sandstone, shale, siltstone, conglomerate, and anthracite coal. This area has a humid continental climate with a slight seasonality of precipitation, and considerable year-to-year variability in weather.

Original forest cover was mostly Appalachian oak forest, with some northern hardwood forest. Nowadays, black cherry (Prunus serotina) and birch, mostly gray birch (Betula populifolia), are more common, especially in forests recolonizing former mining sites.

This area has been heavily altered by coal mining and associated urban-industrial development. Mine drainage has lead to acidification of streams, and mining has stripped vegetation and degraded soil from many areas. There is a small amount of agriculture here as well, and some areas are forested. This area is home to the Wyoming Valley or Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton metropolitan area, with Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton as the largest cities here. These cities are industrial in origin and owe their presence largely to the anthracite.

Much of this region is interspersed with and surrounded by the Northern Sandstone Ridges. In a few areas it directly borders the Northern Shale Valleys, which are in turn surrounded by sandstone ridges. The northernmost stretch of this region shares a very small border with the Pocono High Plateau.

This photo shows the Bear Valley Strip Mine in Northumberland County, PA. Mining like this stripped the vegetation and created a series of different environmental problems throughout this region. Photo © James St. John, CC BY 2.0.

References

1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brown, D.D. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR (1999) Web.