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Benchmarks: June 15, 1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts

Twenty-seven years ago this month, the calm in central Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, turned to chaos. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo disgorged 5 cubic kilometers of material over a few hours, and ash clouds soared 35 kilometers into the atmosphere. The substantial eruption — the second largest of the 20th century — burned itself into memories and history books.

15 Jun 2018

Mineral Resource of the Month: Chromium

Although chromium is a metal, it does not occur naturally in metallic form. Chromium can be found in many minerals, but the only economically significant chromium-bearing mineral is chromite. Chromite has been mined from four different deposit types: stratiform chromite, podiform chromite, placer chromite, and laterite deposits. Most of the world’s resources, however, are located in stratiform chromite deposits, such as the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The economic potential of chromite resources depends on the thickness and continuity of the deposit and on the grade of the ore. Many of the major stratiform chromite deposits also contain economic levels of platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium and ruthenium.

13 Jun 2018

"Greening" stormwater in Philadelphia

When environmental geologist David Wilcots joined Sci-Tek Consultants in 2014, he became involved with the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure project. Sci-Tek’s goal was to redesign certain areas of the city’s urban landscape so that “less stormwater goes into the sewage system” and more goes into the ground, explains Wilcots. 

29 May 2018

Down to Earth With: Geologist and paleontologist David Wilcots

When David Wilcots was 4 years old, his parents took him to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City where he encountered his first giant dinosaur skeleton: a roughly 27-meter-long sauropod named Apatosaurus (though at the time it was still popularly known as Brontosaurus). “That just blew my mind,” he remembers. His passion for paleontology grew, branching from dinosaurs into early mammals, and led him to major in geology at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1988, he earned a master’s in geology at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. But then, things didn’t go as planned. “When I got out of grad school, I looked for jobs in paleo, but couldn’t find any,” he recalls. “Environmental geology was the next best thing.” He began consulting with business and government agencies, and as time went on, his second choice of career grew on him.

29 May 2018

Geomedia: Books: "Quakeland" spotlights seismic risk

I was flying to Seattle when I finished Kathryn Miles’ 2017 book, “Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.” I shut the book with a shudder of dread. There’s trouble brewing below the myriad coffee shops, not just in Seattle, but also across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle and the surrounding region sit atop the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), where the diminutive Juan de Fuca Plate dives eastward beneath the sizable North American Plate, producing a chain of stratovolcanoes arrayed along the coast like pearls on a string — an explosive geohazard.

16 May 2018

Benchmarks: May 3, 2003: New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain falls

On May 2, 2003, the Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire’s famous face-shaped granite formation, adorned the side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park, just as it had for millennia. But by the next morning, it was gone: The iconic stone face had fallen.

03 May 2018

Down to Earth With: National Park Service senior paleontologist Vincent Santucci

When Vincent Santucci was hired in 1985 to work as a seasonal ranger in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, he assumed the most formative part of the experience would be sharing his unbridled enthusiasm for fossils with park visitors. But as Santucci explored the colorful badlands on his days off, he sometimes stumbled across people who were illegally collecting fossils. Following the first of these encounters, Santucci raced back to headquarters to report the illicit activity with the expectation that the chief ranger would rush out and arrest the perpetrator. Much to Santucci’s surprise, the ranger instead put a hand on his shoulder and drawled, “You ain’t from around here, are you, boy?” After several repeat episodes, Santucci learned that when rangers had previously caught illegal collectors and brought them before the local magistrate, the judge had refused to prosecute, citing a lack of fencing or signage that clearly informed the fossil hunters they’d been on federal land.

30 Apr 2018

Geomedia: Books: Solar eclipses past, present and future

The two books reviewed here — “Totality” and “American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World” by Colorado science writer David Baron — both capture the historical scientific significance and the excitement that still exists today in viewing solar eclipses, particularly those that pass over our own piece of the planet.

16 Apr 2018

Mineral Resource of the Month: Sulfur

Sulfur is one of the few elements found in elemental form in nature and has been used in elemental form since ancient times. It forms near volcanic vents and fumaroles, and small quantities of native sulfur form during the weathering of sulfate and sulfide minerals. However, the largest concentrations of sulfur are found associated with sulfide ore mineral deposits and with evaporative minerals in salt domes. As the 16th-most abundant element in Earth’s crust, sulfur is plentiful and can be found around the world.

 
12 Apr 2018

Geomedia: Television: "One Strange Rock" is Superlative

National Geographic's new 10-part documentary series, "One Strange Rock," is, in a word, superlative, according to our reviewer. Featuring gorgeous footage and state-of-the-art, digitally generated animations, and perhaps covering a wider range of earth science topics than other documentaries in the genre, it’s worthy of the adjective.

11 Apr 2018

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