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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

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

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

Benchmarks: April 4, 2011: Air France Flight 447 wreckage found using modern oceanography tools

In the early morning hours of March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370), en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, lost communication with air traffic control during the transition between Malaysian and Vietnamese air space. It then disappeared, along with all 239 people aboard.

04 Apr 2018

Down to Earth With: Conservation engineer Emily Pidgeon

“I can be a very blunt object,” says Emily Pidgeon, describing how she moves through the world and how she approaches her work. Her Australian accent, drawling yet punctuated, rises above the din of the lunch crowd at a café. She pauses a moment, and declares herself a larrikin. “Do you know that word, larrikin?” She explains that Australians have a larrikin culture — they’re troublemakers, but in a good way. “We have a healthy disrespect for authority,” she says, sipping her tea.

30 Mar 2018

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