Thursday, April 16, 2009

Auditory Pleasure - Les Mis

Well, if you haven't seen the video of Susan Boyle singing, give it a listen. (Embedding disabled) I love Les Miserables and her voice singing "I dreamed a dream" is absolutely beautiful. Inspirational for me. Carrying on with writing and studying now... Postings will resume in May.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ted Talk...

Callan's post on the TED talks reminded me that I wanted to post a TED talk I thought was very interesting. Despite living in the Rocky Mnt Region, I do on occassion scuba dive. I only have my open water certification, but I was enthralled with the development of this new technology to go deeper with minimal risk of oxygen/nitrogen toxicity.
Now, the development of this new technology opened up a whole new level of the ocean for exploration. Go check out Richard Pile's TED talk. Well worth the 17 minutes.

10 Things every geology major should know...

Callan at NOVA Geoblog has started a new meme. “What are ten things that every geology major ought to know about? The only restriction is you're not allowed to list anything that has already been listed by a previous geoblogger. You don't have to list everything, just ten important things.”

Mel’s Ten Things a Geology Major Should Know
1. Evolution.
2. Evidence for plate tectonics.
3. That fossils (and trace fossils) can provide more information about the rocks they reside in - depositional environment, chronology and correlation, water temperature, stratigraphic up, relative rate of deposition, water depth, etc.
4. And vice versa, the rocks can tell you a lot about the fossils that are contained within them - geography, taphonomy, chronology and correlation, etc.
5. The relationship between sediment production --> sediment transport --> sediment deposition.
6. How to identify minerals.
7. Differentiation and fractionation and how they apply to the planet, the solar system, and isotopes.
8. How aquifers work (or don’t work if we drain them too quickly).
9. Where our energy supply comes from. All facets from petroleum products, to solar radiation, to conductive metals extraction, etc. (These are also useful for seeking gainful employment as a geologist.)
10. Pedogenesis. How it takes thousands of years of chemical reactions and transport to generate the soils we use for agriculture. (And how we should be taking better care of them.)

I know, seds and paleo heavy. I am expecting the rest of the geoblogosphere will round things out a bit… I can definitely see where my paleo and chemistry backgrounds have influenced this list. And towards the end, I got a little soap-boxy. Everyone should know these last couple, not just geologists. But, I don’t think we can limit the list to just 10. If we were, then it should be composed of things like “critical thinking” and “the scientific method” and all encompassing subjects like “plate tectonics.” If it were really only limited to 10, we should be thinking about goals as per Kim and SERC tutorial. I did find a good "subjects to know in geology" study guide here, but it's a wee bit longer than 10. So, what is on your list?

Callan Bentley’s Ten Things a Geology Major Should Know
1. The relationship between cooling rate and crystal size in igneous rocks.
2. The fact that rocks can flow, given sufficient temperature and pressure [and low strain rate, for the purists out there].
3. The idea that sedimentary rocks reflect specific depositional settings. By studying modern depositional settings and the sediments they contain, we can interpret ancient sedimentary rocks in light of the conditions under which they accumulated.
4. The fact that the chemical stability of molecular configurations (minerals) changes with different temperatures and pressures (metamorphism).
5. Large Igneous Provinces, and their potential role in tectonics and expressing mantle plumes.
6. Elastic rebound theory for the origin of earthquakes.
7. The notion of partial melting, and its relationship to Bowen's Reaction Series.
8. An understanding of the carbon cycle, and an understanding of the atmospheric physics that facilitate global warming.
9. The role that rivers play in shaping the landscape: nickpoints, terraces, quarrying, abrasion, drilling of potholes, etc.
10. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old, which is extremely old in comparison to human life -- and the reasons we think it's so old [Pb isotopes, etc.].

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The generation of giant dunes explained

Ever climbed up a 200+ ft dune (I know some of you have from your memes ...) and wondered how it formed?
Well, a new paper in Nature explains the controls on giant dune size. Andreotti et al. (2009) use a combination of field measurements and aerodynamic calculations to provide evidence that giant dunes are built of smaller dunes and their terminal height is controlled by an atmospheric boundary layer.
They show that large dunes grow by the amalgamation of superimposed dunes. Dune growth stops (assuming it's not the result of climatic change) by interaction with an inversion layer. Once the dune has grown large enough, it begins interacting with the inversion layer which confines airflow to move around the dunes rather than over them. The height of this inversion layer correlates to the variation in annual temperature. The greater the variation in annual temperature the higher the altitude of the inversion layer and the taller the giant dunes can grow. Continental dunes with larger annual temperature changes grow larger than coastal dunes which have smaller annual temperature changes moderated by their proximity to the ocean.

There is also a short piece on Ralph Bagnold and his seminal book "Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes." And in case you missed it in the Carnival of the Arid #1, Through the Sandglass' Michael Welland describes the fascinating life of Ralph Bagnold.

Cool stuff!

Bozeman Building Explosion and Fire

Thank you everyone for your concern. If you haven't heard, a natural gas explosion and fire occured in downtown Bozeman this morning. Initially, no one was reported missing or injured because most if the downtown businesses were closed. However, the local officials are now reporting up to five people missing (one is officially missing, 5 are unaccounted for as of yet). For more information, our local paper is making regular updates. I'd like to extend my deepest symapthies to all the people and businesses affected by this tragedy and I appreciate the hard work of the firefighters and emergency personel.

Update: One person is officially missing and was reported to be in the building at the time. For anyone needing aid Red Cross has set up a relocation center at Grace Bible Church at 19th Street or people can call 1-800-ARC-MONT for more information.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Snow and Ice Job Postings

A friend passed this list along to me and I thought others might like to know what snow and ice research positions are available. Good luck for anyone applying.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Accretionary Wedge - Where would I go... the desert of course!

For the Accretionary Wedge Carnival, we were challenged to make a list of what we felt were the top 100 places to visit for geologists. Well, I’m going to deviate from that a bit. Instead of recommending exact places to visit, as geologists, I think we should be listing features to visit and possible locations where those features can be observed. The point of seeing an example (or several examples) of a feature is to broaden our perspective and make us better geologists.

My contribution to the Carnival this month is to list the deserts of the world and those I have visited. Any one of which would be a fantastic addition to the 100 places to visit. Now, we could get bogged down in terminology defining what is or is not a desert (I have my opinion <200 mm of rainfall/yr, others have theirs), but I prefer to keep it more general.

Why deserts? Well, it may be a little selfish because I study deserts, but it is also a cool place to see some neat geology (and ecology).

Here are the world deserts alphabetical by continent. Extra details can be found at Principal Deserts of the World. (They have a nice table, but didn't want to infringe on any copyright)

Kalahari - Any chance to visit sub-Saharan Africa should include a visit here.
Namib - My favorite desert. This region has been a desert for almost 70 million years. It also contains some of the tallest dunes and hosts diamond mines along the southern coast. I have heard they used to find the diamonds by their reflection in the moonlight. And did anyone else notice the desert scenes in "The Cell" are the Namib desert? Others may have "Shawshank Redemption," I have "The Cell."
Sahara – actually composed of multiple ergs (sand seas). In searching for Where on GoogleEarth challenges, I have often wandered over to Libya. I think Libya has some of the coolest aerial exposures of geology on the planet. Check it out some time or argue for a better location.

Antarctic - In case you didn't already know, this counts as a polar desert.

Arctic - Polar desert.

Kara-Kum - I haven't studied this desert much and it looks like it's wiki page could use some work. If only there were more hours in a day.
Gobi – Actaully, not very sandy. But I would love to visit especially after seeing the Mongolian culture in "Long Way Round."

Great Sandy
Great Victoria
Simpson and Sturt Stony

North America:
Mojave - The only North American desert I have not visited. Bummer, I know.
Sonoran - The Sonoroan Desert is absolutely beautiful and has some of the greatest ecological diversity I have ever seen in a desert.
Chihuahuan - I've driven through much of the Chihuahuan Desert, but never made it into Mexico.
Great Basin - Been through here too, but have not made it to Great Basin National Park.
Colorado Plateau - Yeah, doing field work in this region isn't too shabby.

South America:
Patagonian - "I'm being followed by a rain shadow, rain shadow-rain shadow..."

Specifically, I think everyone should visit a desert with active dunes. Dune fields are excellent places to think about and witness how fluid moves particles. Unless you are watching flume experiments or underwater cameras, it can be difficult to see how water moves particles around. (Smaller particles, there is plenty of video showing debris flows pushing boulders around.) In the desert landscape you can also see how changing wind directions and speeds influence the topography on many scales. If you are so inclined, running along the dune face may produce avalanche deposits and sometimes they sing!

Currently, Nick Lancaster is working on compiling an atlas of Quaternary dune fields. There are hundreds of dune fields (especially if you start counting coastal dune fields) so I will just list out the dune fields I have visited.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - My first dune field visit. Often windy and when the wind really gets whipping, the ankle biting gets intense.
Bruneau Dunes State Park – two really massive dunes that have converged leaving a circular sand free void in the center. Climbing down into the sand free zone is really cool and a little eerie. The GoogleEarth image (I have the kmz but have forgotten how to post it) has very nice resolution, but it doesn’t portray the creepiness factor. The circular floor is a different color (pink gravel), completely calm and quiet except for the occasional grain avalanching of the walls, and often contains a few small carcasses and insects. I don’t spook easily, but this is easily one of the weirdest places I have been.
St. Anthony Sand Dunes - Really beautiful in the winter with eolian snow and sand features mixing. Too bad there is a lot of ORV traffic, especially if they post a wilderness study area sign, grrr.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes Very few camping spots. Try hitting up the undeveloped campsite if it’s full. The pink color is not the only cool part about these dunes.
White Sands National Park What can I say, beautiful and pristine white gypsum sand dunes as far as the eye can see. I’ll post some photos below.

And no, I still have not made it to Great Sand Dunes National Park. It's next on my list!

Heavily bioturbated dune at White Sands National Monument


Microbes living in the moist sediment below the interdune surface.

Surfs up!

Landslide Laboratory Video

While working on a post for the Accretionary Wedge and Carnival of the Arid, I came across this video. It is a 5 minute piece on a landslide laboratory in Oregon.
In the video Mark Reid, Dick Iverson, and Rick Lahusen describe their experiements. I thought is was pretty neat so am passing it along. Enjoy.
It looks like the USGS Landslide Hazards Program runs this outdoor laboratory. A summary of their research and publications are located here.

Picture Travelog - Uncompaghre Uplift

The post at Arizona Geology about uranium mine tailings cleanup reminded me of a trip I took down to southern Utah. On my traverse around the region (looking at the top of the Navajo Sandstone) I drove through the Uncompaghre Uplift in Colorado (Moab, UT Rt 191 along the Las Salle Mnts to Rt 46 to Paradox, CO to Rt 141 to Grand Junction, CO).
The small little valley in this steep walled canyon was so beautiful that my first thoughts were "I could retire here." Now, I'm a little young to be thinking about retirement, but it struck a cord in me.

What reminded me about this trip was the mention of the nearby Uranium mine. I witnessed the operations from the roadway for a bit before continuing onwards. Unfortunately, I did not grab any pictures. Along the way, I also stopped at a geologic/historic stop and I am glad I did. There I saw this display and evidence for a hanging flume from placer gold mining.

The display reads:
"In need of water to work its Dolores Canyon gold claims, the Montrose Placer Mining Company built a thirteen-mile canal and flume to deliver water from the San Miguel River. The last five miles of the flume clung to the wall of the canyon itself, running along the cliff face below you."

(See it along the wall?)

"Constructed between 1888 and 1891, the four-foot-deep, five-foot-four-inch-wide "hanging flume" carried 23,640,000 gallons of water in a twenty four hour period. Its construction dazzled mining pros with its sheer ingenuity. The placer claim, unfortunately, dazzled no one; after three years of indifferent yields the company folded, abandoning the flume to the ravages of weather and time. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this engineering marvel symbolizes the twists of fate so often encountered in the pursuit of Rocky Mountain gold."

Display Picture Captions:
"What is left of this section of the flume can be seen today from the River Road.-Jerald Reid Collection from Main Street Photo"

"This work will show how easy it is, when backed up by enterprising capital, to bring water from and to points which were always thought to be inaccessible. -Engineering and Mining Journal, Jan 1890"

"Hydraulic mining operation similar to that used by the Montrose Placer Mining Company. This method separated flake and flour gold from the dirt and gravel running across the sluice boxes. -Colorado Historical Society"

Even though I was there to ogle the sandstones, I was pretty impressed with the construction feat. All the rappelling that would have been done to build this for five miles... They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Looking through my pictures for this trip, I've got a lot of pretty good ones. I'll try and post them as blog posts. Perhaps I can trigger some memory recall for others. If it's anything like the fondness I have for this trip, then as Martha Stewart says "It's a good thing."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Super Cool! - Paper water bottles

I just saw this on one of the cooking blogs I frequent. Paper water bottles. Recyclable and made from sustainable materials. Not only is it a water bottle but, it can be conveniently sold as tear apart six packs and cases with minimal outer packaging.
I was a little concerned that their utility might be lost since they are not resealable, but they do have a sanitary top (not sure if it's leakproof) for the bottle and they have thought about how to reduce litter while maintaining necessary sanitation.
At first, I was hoping this would replace all the soda cans manufactured, but I doubt this paper product can withstand carbonated water pressures. But, I would love to get all the milk I drink (2 gallons a week) in paper bottles. Individual juice boxes, bottled water (if you must buy the stuff), and it could even replace yogurt and sour cream containers. Too cool. Companies, you have a waiting consumer.

Friday, January 30, 2009

WoGE revived and Name that Landslide created

I'm glad to see Where on GoogleEarth (WoGE) has been revived. I like playing, I just don't always have the time. Well, Ron Schott has won it after it's 3 month lull. Keep an eye out at Ron Schott’s Geology Home Companion Blog for WoGE #156.

Also introduced today Name that Landslide on Dave's Landslide Blog. It has already been "won" but I look forward to more posts.
Have a good weekend everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Journal RSS Feeds...

Chris over at Highly Allochthonous was asking what journals have RSS feeds. I just recently updated my Geoscience Journal Blogroll in GoogleReader (but not on the blog). I don't have a lot of time to make them hyperlinks, but hopefully you will find them helpful.
PS I haven't "cleaned out" the list yet. I usually subscribe to a blog for a couple months, see if I really like reading it and then keep it if I do like it. And geoblogosphere, have no fear, none of YOU have been deleted. You are all just too interesting! But anyway, back to my point. I may not stay subscibed to all these journals. Many of them are still in my trial run period.

Basin Research
(old feed


Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Earth Surface



(old feed

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems


Geological Journal

(old feed

Geology Today
(old feed

Geophysical Research Letters

GeoScience e-Journals

(old feed

Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research
(old feed

Ground Water
(old feed

GSA Bulletin Current Issue
(old feed

GSA Today
!But keep an eye out, this one will be changing to gsapubs soon!

Hydrogeology Journal

International Journal of Earth Sciences

Journal of Earth System Science

Journal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth

Journal of Petroleum Geology
(old feed

Journal of Petrology


Mathematical Geosciences (was Mathematical Geology)

Moscow University Geology Bulletin

Natural Hazards


Nature Geoscience

(old feed


Physical Properties of Rocks


Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences

ScienceDirect Earth Sciences

Sedimentary Basins and Petroleum Geology

Sedimentary Geology

(old feed

Stratigraphy and Geological Correlation

Swiss Journal of Geosciences


Wiley: All New Geography & Earth Science Titles

And now I have added a couple of the topical RSS feeds from ScienceDirect that Chris at Highly Allochthonous listed. Thanks Chris. If anyone sees any errors or has other suggestions, pass them along.

After seeing how many feeds have changed addresses, I wish there were a way to change the feed's address so I could save my starred/shared settings from the old feed in GoggleReader. Right now I am just keeping the old feed in my list as a deadlink so I can save those settings. And, if anyone knows a better way to export a folder RSS feed list to some usable format, I am all ears. Cutting and pasting was a pain.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Geologists' 100 things meme

Just ran through the list myself. A couple may be considered "cheating" because if I saw the same feature in a different location, I counted it, but I made notes on where I saw the feature. I'm at 48/100 sensu lato, 45/100 sensu stricto.

1. See an erupting volcano – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Pu`u `O`o Crater lava tubes.
2. See a glacier – Mt. Baker, Mt Rainier, etc.
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland – Yellowstone National Park
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary – Hell Creek Outcrops (Bug Creek and Makoshika state Park)
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage – Small stream in the center of Bozeman. It was interesting when the wate reached the narrower culvert.
6. Explore a limestone cave - Lewis and Clark Caverns, Carlsbad Caverns, a couple in NY
7. Tour an open pit mine - Berkeley Pit & Luzenac Mine, MT
8. Explore a subsurface mine - I think it was the Sunshine Silver Mine, Coeur d'Alene Area, ID

9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California). I have driven the coast of California, but I can’t say that I have seen a whole ophiolite complex.
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too).
11. A slot canyon - The Narrows in Zion National Park, Bishop Canyon near the San Rafael Swell UT, and Big Horn Canyon, UT.
12. Varves.
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada.
14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland. – Only core from Stillwater, MT15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate
16. A ginkgo tree
Living and fossilized stromatolites – Belt Supergroup Rocks, Northwest MT18. A field of glacial erratics – Too many places to count
19. A caldera – Yellowstone Caldera & manyo f its past calderas
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high – Bruneau Sand Dunes, ID

21. A fjord
22. A recently formed fault scarp – Does 1959 count? Cabin Creek Scarp at Quake Lake, MT.
23. A megabreccia – I’ve seen some really large clasts in breccias and conglomerates, but I don’t think they count as megabreccias in this case.
24. An actively accreting river delta
25. A natural bridge – Yellowstone National Park and Arches National Park
26. A large sinkhole Florida, lots of them there. Could also count collapsed lava tubes… I’ve seen lots of those in ID and HI.

27. A glacial outwash plain – I’m guessing this has to be an active glacial outwash plain?
28. A sea stack – I know I have seen them, but I can’t remember where, so I won’t count it.
29. A house-sized glacial erratic
30. An underground lake or river - A cave in NY and a disappearing river in FL.
31. The continental divide
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals – Butte Mineral Museum, MT
33. Petrified trees – Yellowstone again.
34. Lava tubes – Lots near Idaho Falls.

35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back.
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible – Saw it on the horizon.
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m) (this seems redundant with #21 fjord…)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale. I’m going to count this one because I have seen the San Rafael swell in UT.
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe.
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania,
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high
44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below.
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art. ---It’s on this years to-do list…
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck. I have seen other volcanic necks with radiating dikes.
52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.
The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows. Have seen several polygonally fractured basaltic flows near and in the Yellowstone area.
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn".
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity
61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah – I think there are much cooler things to see in Arches National Park… Just a personal opinion.
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia
65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone

68. Monument Valley
69. The San Andreas fault
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)

78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0 - So close, 4.6!
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ - Seen not found…
84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil)
85. Find gold, however small the flake
86. Find a meteorite fragment
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall
88. Experience a sandstorm
89. See a tsunami
90. Witness a total solar eclipse
91. Witness a tornado firsthand
92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower. Nope, just several meteor showers. Not up to storm level yet.
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.
95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century
96. See a lunar eclipse
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
98. Experience a hurricane – In fact I have been through 5, the eye of 3 of them.
99. See noctilucent clouds

100. See the green flash – I’ve tried, but have not seen it.