Thursday, January 31, 2008
Continuing the string of thought concerning how we might produce "shock and awe" among the visitors to our new museum, there is another idea. Dinosaurs are almost out of fashion, in a sense, since it has been quite a few years since Speilberg made a sequel of "Jurassic Park". And...we have a host of really cool ocean-going reptiles that were as ferocious or scary as any little ole' raptor. The sediments of the Great Valley Group have yielded numerous specimens of of Plesiosaurs, which I could imagine as suspended above the main floor of the atrium. The example for sale here by Triebold Paleontology (for, um, $70,000) is 42 feet long.
So what could be better than to have an example of our great heritage on display in the atrium of our new Community Science Center? Very few people in our region even know that dinosaurs have been found in California, much less in our own backyard. I have borrowed (stolen) the image above from the Black Hill Institute, in the hopes that they will realize that we would be a potential customer for their $45,000 replica of a 14-foot long specimen of a juvenile Edmontosaurus, and that as such, I am giving them a bit of free advertising...
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
This takes me back to a very fine field trip we had to Yellowstone in 2006. Wandering about the Old Faithful geyser area, I was snapping photos of Castle Geyser when Beehive started erupting at the same time. Old Faithful is the iconic geyser, but many, many others are every bit as photogenic and far less crowded. Something like 70% of all the geysers in the world are within the boundaries of the park; it's one of those places that should be on every geologist's lifetime list. Despite all the crowding and over-exposure of the place, it is still a wonderous place to visit.
Speaking of webcams in volcanic places, be sure to check out one of my absolute favorite parks in the world: Lava Beds National Monument. They have a webcam showing the tremendous view of the Modoc Plateau from the veranda of the park visitor center at http://www.nps.gov/archive/labe/content/webcam.htm. And don't forget to check out the ongoing eruptions at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/), and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cam/index.htm).
Monday, January 28, 2008
So much of the world lies undiscovered and unexplored. How many people have ever wandered through this region? Not that it would be easy in any sense of the word! Still, how many fossils remain to be found in these rocks? How many missing bits of geologic history?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Nearing the end of the Cascades Volcanoes theme, I offer a panorama of the Three Sisters and Broken Top in central Oregon. The summits of the mountains are hidden by lenticular clouds, which form as air masses are forced over the summit, and condense to form the strange shapes. Or, they are smoke screens placed by aliens as they land on the peaks. North (10,090 ft; 3,075 m) and Middle Sister (10,050 feet; 3,063 m) appear as a single peak on the left, with South Sister (10,360 feet; 3,158 m) in the middle. North Sister is a shield complex that has not erupted in at least 100,000 years. Middle and South Sister are stratovolcanoes, with the most recent activity on South Sister about 2,000 yrs BP. Rock Mesa is a dacite dome (the barren area in the foreground a little to the right of South Sister), and was one of the last outpourings of lava. The much older complex stratovolcano of Broken Top (9,152 ft.; 2,789 m) is on the right.
Measurements starting in 2001 show that an area near South Sister is rising (around 1-2 cm per year) which may indicate renewed volcanic activity.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park is expected to be gone within a few decades, along with all of the others in the park. For a striking graphic of glacial and vegetation change from 1850 to the present and then projected into the future (to 2100), see http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/glacier_model.htm
The Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century. Global average surface temperatures increased on average by about 0.6°C over the period 1956–2006. As of 2006, eleven of the previous twelve years were warmer than any others since 1850. The observed rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is expected to continue and lead to the disappearance of summertime ice within this century. Evidence from most oceans and all continents except Antarctica shows warming attributable to human activities. Recent changes in many physical and biological systems are linked with this regional climate change. A sustained research effort, involving many AGU members and summarized in the 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, continues to improve our scientific understanding of the climate.
During recent millennia of relatively stable climate, civilization became established and populations have grown rapidly. In the next 50 years, even the lower limit of impending climate change—an additional global mean warming of 1°C above the last decade—is far beyond the range of climate variability experienced during the past thousand years and poses global problems in planning for and adapting to it. Warming greater than 2°C above 19th century levels is projected to be disruptive, reducing global agricultural productivity, causing widespread loss of biodiversity, and—if sustained over centuries—melting much of the Greenland ice sheet with ensuing rise in sea level of several meters. If this 2°C warming is to be avoided, then our net annual emissions of CO2 must be reduced by more than 50 percent within this century. With such projections, there are many sources of scientific uncertainty, but none are known that could make the impact of climate change inconsequential. Given the uncertainty in climate projections, there can be surprises that may cause more dramatic disruptions than anticipated from the most probable model projections.
With climate change, as with ozone depletion, the human footprint on Earth is apparent. The cause of disruptive climate change, unlike ozone depletion, is tied to energy use and runs through modern society. Solutions will necessarily involve all aspects of society. Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government. Members of the AGU, as part of the scientific community, collectively have special responsibilities: to pursue research needed to understand it; to educate the public on the causes, risks, and hazards; and to communicate clearly and objectively with those who can implement policies to shape future climate.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I would like to add that when you think about it the right way, California will indeed "fall" into the Pacific Ocean, in the sense that right-lateral motion on the San Andreas and related fault systems will probably tear of a big chunk of Alta and Baja California and send it careening northwest through the Pacific Ocean towards Alaska at the stunning rate of a few centimeters per year. As I am fond of pointing out to my classes, this has already happened with some former parts of California that have already been incorporated into the Alaska mainland as exotic terranes (Look up the history of the Yakutat Terrane). Despite what the National Enquirer and the psychics might tell us, buying up ocean-front property in Nevada might be a bit premature....
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I welcome some speculation or even some expertise!
Addendum a few hours later....researching my own post: the GoogleEarth site for this picture lies at 46 deg 54'52.13"N, 122 deg 50'21.84"W in Thurston County, WA. Looks like a classic mima mounds site, but has other interesting features too.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Although "we" (once again spoken as a white male) like to think we are past some of the injustices that checker our country's history, they are not gone, not by any means. One of my students, a female, worked as an intern in a local geological consulting firm, and was subjected to demeaning treatment because of her gender. This was by people I had known for years, and it both saddened and angered me. I have had lunchtime discussions where there have been complaints that faculty and administrators at my institution were selected on the basis of affirmative action rather than for their skills and talents, despite the fact that the people in question were effective and creative people. What bothers me even more is that I didn't speak up and respond when I had the chance. These are small examples from my own experience, and cannot compare to the vicious and insidious hatred that still manifests itself in hate-crimes that still occur with sad regularity. It doesn't even touch on the huge economic disparities that have always existed between races in our society, and which have grown even worse in recent years. And it does not begin to add up to the horrific treatment in our society of gays and lesbians.
I know I don't have much of a wide readership on my fledgling new blog, but I hope anyone that stumbles across it will consider the state of our society: we still have deep, deep problems with stereotypes and prejudices when it comes to race and gender. I know that despite my desire not to do so, I jump to conclusions about the abilities of students that appear in my classes, based solely on race. I know from long experience that these assumptions almost always turn out to be unjustified. Recognizing these stereotypical attitudes in ourselves is the first step in overcoming them. Try to be aware that when you serve on a hiring committee, that the person you are selecting is often, whether you are aware of it or not, the person who is most like yourself. We need to be open to new possibilities.
I work in a highly conservative region, with a long enmity towards minorities that is based in part on a historical division between migrant farm workers and the farm owners, but on other factors as well. As such, I may have a completely different picture of how things are compared to other regions, whether urban centers, or rural communities. I am glad that my institution is a place where many of those barriers are examined, and sometimes overcome, but there is so much more that needs to be done. There is great good that can come from having a national holiday that celebrates not just one man's life, but also the idea that we can transcend our differences. We don't need a society that is "color-blind", we should be a society that truly celebrates our diversity. Even though we have fallen short in so many ways, it is one of our country's greatest achievements that we at least have sought to do so. And yet we have a long way to go...
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
My first selection for this series is an otherwise unremarkable low-resolution shot. It is the back-story that I would like to relate. In 2001, I took my students on our first international field studies trip, to Scotland. It was, in fact, my first interoceanic flight, and I had possessed the digital camera for a grand total of one day, and before taking off, I had taken a grand total of three pictures. The flight, from San Francisco to London, was about 9 hours long. We had individual monitors and a GPS map on our seatbacks, so I knew where we were at all along the flight. The smart folks on the flight knew all about jetlag, and went to sleep. I was very keyed up, couldn't sleep, and I kept my eye on the ground throughout the entire flight (I would regret this 32 hours later when I would finally sleep again). But...the flight path took us over Greenland. I had never seen a continental glacier or ice-cap, and I was anxiously looking forward to my first look. So after 5 hours of waiting, the GPS said we had reached the western coast of Greenland, and of course, there were clouds. And not interesting clouds either. They were featureless stratiform clouds that revealed nothing of the landscape underneath. My frustration was intense. But I waited, and waited. For the next hour or so we flew over the land, seeing nothing. And finally, while everyone else slept, just as we reached the eastern coast, the clouds briefly parted, and for perhaps two minutes, I could see the end of the glacier where it was shedding chunks of ice into the Atlantic. And I snapped this picture. I use it in my classes, even though subsequent flights have revealed much greater scenery.
Thanks for your patience if you made it this far in my story! If you would like to see some of the other pictures of our Scotland journey, check out http://virtual.yosemite.cc.ca.us/ghayes/Scotland.htm.
I look forward to any contributions you might have to offer for this series!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
1. California will fall into the sea
2. California has the largest earthquakes in the world
3. California has the most earthquakes of anywhere in the world
4. The ground opens up and swallows people
5. Psychics predict earthquakes
6. Animals predict earthquakes
7. We are waiting for THE BIG ONE!
8. The safest place in an earthquake is a doorway
9. All California quakes happen on the San Andreas fault
Since there is at least a (very) small element of truth in a (very) few of some of these, it leads to a good discussion on earthquakes.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I think about geologic change. . .
I started teaching two wars ago, both of them in the Middle East, and both, despite all of the various justifications for fighting a war, on lands situated over hundreds of billions of barrels of petroleum. I think about the students who have sat in my classes, dozing over another recitation over the scarcity of resources, and going on with their lives, hardly giving a thought to where their gasoline is coming from.
The prices rise, bit by bit. It seems barely noticeable day by day, but a hurricane strikes, a bomb explodes somewhere, and suddenly the price for a gallon of gasoline shoots up. It seems not so long ago that $2.00 per gallon was “expensive”. Now people are relieved when the price dips below $3.00.
I think about economic change. . .
I love teaching about geology. I love it because I am fascinated by the beauty of crystals, the grandeur of earth history, the strangeness of the many animals that have lived on the earth, and I love understanding how a landscape came to be, whether from flowing water, grinding ice, or surging lava. For years, I have looked forward to teaching, just for the joy of opening new worlds to my students.
The stakes feel higher these days. We are running out of easy oil. As the price of energy continues to rise, we as a society will finally have to confront the choices that have to be made about our energy future. Who will be making those decisions?
The oil companies? The coal companies? The nuclear power plant owners? Who do you think will benefit from their choices? No, the decision lies with the members of our society, whether they want to participate or not. It is our role as teachers to convince, cajole, encourage, and inspire our students to care about the huge changes, and choices, which face our society. It’s not an easy job, but it is important.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I was overdue back at the hotel (by about three hours or so), and so am lucky to still be married, but what a great moment it was. It both stunning, and yet hypnotic watching the newest rocks on the planet forming in front of me.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The caverns were discovered in the 1970’s, but their existence was kept a highly-guarded secret, so that they would not suffer the kind of vandalism and damage that is the fate of so many other caverns throughout the world. Following intense negotiations, the Arizona state legislature approved the formation of a state park without exactly knowing what it was that they were protecting. The philosophy that guides the park is that the caverns should be maintained in as close to their pristine original condition as is possible, while allowing visitors to see the spectacular features inside. To accomplish this, airlocks were installed to maintain the near 100% humidity (difficult in the desert environment), and trails were constructed carefully to protect the incredibly delicate cave formations. It is quickly evident that apart from the constructed walkways, human feet have never touched most of the cave surfaces. In short, a visit to the cavern is not so much a spelunking expedition, but rather a museum tour.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
"...I stepped over the pile of Grizzly droppings and continued up the trail, suddenly a bit more attentive to my surroundings. The clouds above were threatening to let loose with a downpour, and I was getting tired, having already walked 5 miles horizontally, and 2,500 feet vertically, to approach the glacially carved ridge high above. But none of these distractions mattered; nothing was going to disturb my mood. I was almost there, almost to the quarry where Charles Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale fossil assemblage back in 1909. It is hard to describe my feelings as I took those last few steps up to the rocks in the opening above.
No doubt many of you are familiar with the Burgess Shale fossil locality from your earth history and paleontology classes. It is one of the few places where the soft anatomy of creatures was preserved, giving us a unique picture of a moment in time some 515 million years ago, very soon after the “Cambrian explosion”. The usually common trilobites take a back seat to the strange and graceful creatures like Marrella, Opabina, Pikaia, Hallucigenia, and Anomalocaris. What a privilege to pick up and consider these small treasures from a time so different from our own.
I stood there on that high mountain ridge in the Canadian Rockies, thinking about my students back home in Modesto. How would they feel if they were here? I had to think that the earth and its history is so rich, and so stupendous, that not even the most cynical student could fail to be moved by the incredible diversity of life, and the long tectonic story that formed the earth we see today. If they could only just be there.
It is our job to bring the world to our students. We can’t always take them there in person, but we can make the earth alive to them in our classrooms and laboratories. We provide the tools for them, and through our guidance they develop the skills to find answers to their questions about the processes and history of the earth. It is our example that brings to light the scientific method of testing hypotheses and developing theories through careful investigation. "
Monday, January 7, 2008
Since discovering digital photography, I have been taking thousands of pictures of geological features and interesting places, and I will be posting some of them here as well. (Added 2012) If you would like to see some of my photo collections, please check out the photo gallery on my website at http://geotripperimages.com/.
If you happen to run across this site and want to comment, please do so!