Taxonomy term

july 2011

Travels in Geology: Florissant fossil beds: An Eocene time capsule

Beneath the grassy meadows and pine-studded hills of central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. From enormous petrified redwood stumps to the individual lenses in a fly’s compound eye, an entire ecosystem of rarely preserved life forms has been fortuitously fossilized, narrating the story of a warmer and wetter prehistoric Colorado that thrived at the brink of a dramatic episode of global cooling.

07 Jul 2011

Benchmarks: July 9, 1958: Megatsunami drowns Lituya Bay, Alaska

The recent disaster in Japan demonstrates the incredible destructive power of a megatsunami in a heavily populated area. But a record-breaking tsunami of a different sort occurred in 1958, in a remote part of Alaska known as Lituya Bay — and was witnessed by only six people, two of whom died. The giant tsunami and the unusual geometry of the bay combined to produce the largest wave run-up ever recorded — deluging the steep forested hills along the edges of the bay to a height of 524 meters. The wave was a powerful reminder of the forces nature can unleash.
 
04 Jul 2011

Down to Earth With: Deep-Sea submersible Alvin

Every oceanographer knows Alvin. Since 1964, the legendary deep submergence vehicle has carried more than 12,000 scientists and other observers to the bottom of the ocean on more than 4,600 dives. Its exploits are legion: locating and recovering a lost U.S. hydrogen bomb in 780 meters of water off the coast of Spain in 1966, exploring the first-known hydrothermal vents (black smokers off the Galapagos Islands) in 1977 and surveying the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.

04 Jul 2011

Where on Earth? - July 2011

Clues for July 2011:
1. This swirling mass of glassy rock is a hardened lava flow, formed during the final stage of a powerful rhyolitic eruptive sequence about 1,300 years ago. The volcano is a broad shield volcano that began erupting about 600,000 years ago, and has been active many times in the past 10,000 years.

Travels in Geology: Climbing Mount Shasta

As we neared the top of the West Face of Mount Shasta, my calf muscles felt like they were pulling apart, stretching to the breaking point. My crampons merely dinted the shimmering snow, leaving dainty bird-like tracks. Roped behind our guides, our group of three climbers switchbacked slowly up the 35-degree-angle slopes. Approaching nearly 4,000 meters in elevation, my lungs grasped for air.

24 Jun 2011

Travels in Geology: Lassen Volcanic National Park: A volcanic wonderland

For breathtaking volcanic scenery, few places have the variety found in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Cascade Range of Northern California. The park boasts five varieties of volcanoes: plug domes, cinder cones, lava cones, shield volcanoes and a stratovolcano called Brokeoff volcano (or Tehama volcano). Bubbling hot springs, boiling mud pots and fumaroles in six geothermal fields in the southern part of the park complete the picture.

24 Jun 2011

Endangered snow: how climate change threatens West Coast water supplies

If you turn the tap on in Seattle, the water flowing from the faucet likely originated as a clump of snow. In winter, snowflakes fall in the Cascades, accumulating in thick snowpack. The snowpack stores water in winter and slowly releases it in spring and summer as temperatures warm and snow melts. As snowmelt flows down the mountains, some of it is diverted and collected in reservoirs — destined to arrive in the homes of more than 1 million people.

17 Jun 2011

The Coconino's starring role in the creationist-geologist battle

Arizona’s Coconino Sandstone — a deposit seen in the Grand Canyon and elsewhere — plays a central role in the creationist argument that the upper rocks of the Grand Canyon were deposited during Noah’s Flood. In fact, the posters presented by students and faculty of Cedarville University at the 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Denver, Colo., pushed a consistent narrative: The Coconino did not form in an eolian (wind-blown) environment. Why is this so important? If the Coconino is eolian, it means the Flood did not happen.

10 Jun 2011

Creationism creeps into mainstream geology

It was easy to miss the part where the field trip leader said the outcrop formed during Noah’s Flood. After all, “During these catastrophic flood flows, turbulent, hyperconcentrated suspensions were observed to transform laminar mudflows” sounds like a reasonable description of alluvial fan processes. And “massive marine transgression” sounds scientific enough. But when creationist geologists use those phrases, they take on a very different meaning.

10 Jun 2011

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