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Benchmarks: June 1,1840: Setting out for the Copper Country

On the morning of June 1, 1840, Michigan’s first state geologist, Douglass Houghton, stepped onto a small barge about to set sail on Lake Superior. The step marked the beginning of the first geological survey of the Keweenaw Peninsula — the northernmost portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which juts out into the center of the lake. Houghton and his crew would spend the summer exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and recording the region’s geologic resources, including rich copper deposits known only locally at the time. That would change, however, after Houghton’s team detailed its findings in an 1841 report that spurred the nation’s first major mining boom.

01 Jun 2015

Mineral Resource of the Month: Iron oxide pigments

Iron oxide pigments, natural or synthetic, are inorganic materials commonly used as coloring agents. They are valued for their resistance to color-change (especially from exposure to sunlight), chemical resistance, stability under ambient environmental conditions, nontoxicity and relatively low cost.

 
29 May 2015

Geomedia: On the web: Personalizing drought data with digital tools

With drought, people feel the heat while it’s happening, but understanding how current droughts fit into past trends — and what they mean for the future — is harder to grasp. Several online tools are available to help the public and decision-makers make sense of drought data. Viewers can see current and historical droughts superimposed on maps, focusing in on specific locations or broadening the view to larger regional, national or global droughts. 
28 May 2015

Down to Earth With: Marine Geophysicist Maya Tolstoy

Growing up in Scotland, Maya Tolstoy was drawn to the theater, and even briefly considered majoring in the subject in college. Instead, she chose to follow another lifelong passion and became a marine geophysicist.

21 May 2015

Benchmarks: May 8, 1902: The deadly eruption of Mount Pelée

At the turn of the 20th century, the town of St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean.” Nestled into the northwest coast of the French island of Martinique, it boasted a bustling harbor where ships hauled away precious loads of sugar and rum, and it had usurped the official capital — Fort-de-France — as the colony’s cultural center. But St. Pierre had a problem: it lay in the shadow of a massive volcano.

 
08 May 2015

Down the Earth With: Clive Oppenheimer

North Korea is perhaps the most isolated country in the world, with a people, culture and landscape largely veiled from outside observation, which rarely hosts few Westerners. However, in recent years a smattering of western scientists have visited the country, including volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer from the University of Cambridge in England. In 2011, Oppenheimer was invited by North Korean scientists who were concerned about a sleeping giant of a volcano on the northern border with China that had shown signs of restlessness. A few weeks later, he found himself on the imposing but beautiful mountain, known as Paektu-san to the Koreans (or Changbaishan in China), with a small team trying to unravel the volcano’s past and potential future activity. He has returned to North Korea twice since, and is looking to extend the rare collaboration further.

17 Apr 2015

Benchmarks: April 12, 1934: Record winds buffet Mount Washington

When Jeff Masters was 5 years old, a brutish gust of wind knocked him flat. The incident transpired on top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, a place that has long fascinated Masters — now a meteorologist and the founder of the popular forecasting site Weather Underground.

12 Apr 2015

Peak's appeal - and hazard - endures today

Despite the bad weather, or perhaps because of it, more than 250,000 visitors flock to Mount Washington each year. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1850s, when hotels first sprung up on the summit (with their roofs chained to the ground). Some also claim the footpath to the top — the Crawford Path — is the oldest hiking trail in the country.

 
12 Apr 2015

March 29, 1936: Notes on Earth's Inner Core

On March 29, 1936, Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann wrote a letter to a colleague in which she argued that seismic waves — specifically P-waves — recorded from distant earthquakes showed some anomalous characteristics. “If you had seen so many records from these distances as I have,” she wrote, “I am sure you would not doubt that the amplitudes are abnormally small.” Within the year, Lehmann published a study based on those unusual amplitudes, work that first proposed that Earth has a solid inner core inside its liquid outer core.

29 Mar 2015

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