The sliding rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California have mystified and delighted visitors for decades (previously). Now planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz and colleagues think they've figured out how the rocks get around: ice rafts float the rocks out of the mud, reducing friction enough that modest winds can push them along (PDF of Lorenz et al., American Journal of Physics, Vol. 79, 1 January 2011). [more inside]
Die Wunder Gottes in der Natur (1744) illustrates astronomical, meteorological, geological, spiritual, and psychological visions, based on the work of 16th century Alsatian encyclopedist Conrad Lycosthenes.
The cover and title page.
The cover and title page.
New electrical conductivity measurements show the subterranean extent of the Yellowstone supervolcano to be a lot larger than previously known.
Hot Rocks: the winning entries in Wired's geology photography contest.
There are some folks that think a large earthquake could hit the U.S. West Coast in the next few days.
Earth Tides, Syzygy, this weekend's Supermoon, and whale beachings are all things that some folks think point to a possible tectonic event on the U.S. West Coast this weekend. Jim Berkland, retired USGS Geologist thinks so. See his interview here. And, he's got a track record of predicting earthquakes.
Around midnight on January 27, 1700, a mysterious tsunami stole through several villages on the eastern coast of Japan. [more inside]
Since last fall central Arkansas has experienced a mysterious swarm of earthquakes. It's clear that Arkansas has shaken in the past. But the sheer numbers are largely unprecedented and have been dubbed an earthquake swarm by the USGS. The Arkansas Geological Survey says that the quakes have nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing of the Fayetteville Shale. So do energy companies. Not everyone is convinced. [more inside]
SEED Magazine: Wealth of Nations: "Shared natural resources underpin the global economy, but our current economic system does not acknowledge their worth. Can a major new effort to assess the costs of biodiversity loss force a paradigm shift in what we value?" [more inside]
Desert Gazette, "Mojave Desert, True Facts Legends and Lies". With links to other sites about the Mojave, including the excellent Digital Desert. Stories of life and death in the desert. The blogger, Walter Feller's photographs. About the Mojave Desert.
Don't continue fooling yourself. The earth is growing and expanding rapidly. Despite plate tectonics' popular acceptance in the 60s, Samuel Warren Carey, the father of modern expansion tectonics, was publicly promoting his theories of an expanded earth as late as 1981. One of the theory's most prominent modern spokesmen is comics artist Neal Adams, who has created a number of informative videos about a new model of the universe that even manages to explain why the dinosaurs died out. [more inside]
Experts are little help in the constant struggle in this conversation to separate myth from reality, because they have the same difficulty, and routinely demonstrate it by talking past each other. Respected scientists warn of imminent energy shortages as geologic fuel supplies run out. Wall Street executives dismiss their predictions as myths and call for more drilling. Environmentalists describe the destruction to the earth from burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Economists ignore them and describe the danger to the earth of failing to burn coal, oil, and natural gas. Geology researchers report fresh findings about what the earth was like millions of years ago. Creationist researchers report fresh findings that the earth didn’t exist millions of years ago. The only way not to get lost in this awful swamp is to review the basics and decide for yourself what you believe and what you don’t. [more inside]
Oh cool, a thermal video of a Hawaiian volcano. More cool, but non thermal, video of another volcano in Hawaii. Another awesome geographical happening in you know where. Wow, the place is a hotspot for shield volcanoes, even has its own observatory.
For Sale: Rural Italian countryside, Priced to MOVE! A landslide (mud flow?) splits a hillside apart in the southern Italian town of Maierato.
How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
Pathological geomorphology, the blog. Featuring: dunes vs. river, parabolic [not Barchan] dunes, annular drainage, salt! glaciers, thermokarst, and another structurally controlled lake.
Jared Diamond on the unique cultural and geological challenges Haiti has faced since its colonial days. Diamond shows how these reasons have caused the nation to fare considerably poorer than its neighbor, The Dominican Republic. [more inside]
Last chance to see: Video of Mexico's Naica Cave of Crystals (Previously, and previously.) [more inside]
Petoskey Stones are stones of fossilized coral (Hexagonaria percarinata ) that can be found along the shore of Lake Michigan near the town of Petoskey (Population 6,000). Once polished, they can be beautiful, and are often made into jewelry. It is the state stone of Michigan and is celebrated in an annual festival. The origin of the name of the stone, however, is under contention. [more inside]
The Polar Discovery team has documented science in action from pole to pole during the historic 2007-2009 International Polar Year, and covered five scientific expeditions. The science projects explored a range of topics from climate change and glaciers, to Earth’s geology, biology, ocean chemistry, circulation, and technology at the icy ends of the earth. Through photo essays and other multimedia, they explain how scientists collected data and what they discovered about the rapidly changing polar regions. From the awesome folks at WHOI.
Native American Sites in the City of Philadelphia is a superbly illustrated exposition of the historical development of Philadelphia, with a focus on those few surviving Native American sites which lie under the urban fabric. Lots more excellent Public Archaeology is available from the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Bonus link: Philly's lost creeks and streams. [more inside]
Durango Bill's Home Page. With topics that include: 3D end-to-end tour of the Grand Canyon, the origin and formation of the Colorado River, and examples of river systems that cut through mountain ranges instead of taking easier routes around them in Ancestral Rivers of the World. [more inside]
Waterlines is a new online exhibit from the excellent Burke Museum at the University of Washington, Seattle. It tells the story of the land underlying Seattle, one of the United States' most geologically active city sites, and of the human attempts to engineer this landform. Closely related are the archaeology of West Point and Coast Salish Villages of Puget Sound (e.g., read the story of North Wind and Storm Wind).
After months of pre-eruptive activity, Alaska's Mount Redoubt has erupted 6 times since Sunday night. Telegraphing its eruption with massive shallow earthquake activity in the range of 26 earthquakes every 10 minutes, the volcano, located around 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, spewed an ash column 10km high, and is expected to continue erupting for weeks or months. The last time this massive volcano erupted in 1989 a commercial airliner was caught in the ash column, causing the engines to seize and the plane to lose two miles of altitude before the engines were restarted. That eruption, which lasted for 5 months, produced this spectacular photo. Follow this amazing event at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. [more inside]
Cool video of an undersea volcano erupting off Tonga. Spectacular clouds began spewing out of the sea on Monday about 10km from the southwest coast off the main island of Tongatapu, where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered. More on these volcanism blogs.
On June 8, 1783, the volcano Laki in south Iceland tore open a 16-mile fissure that erupted over nine cubic miles of lava. Not only would this eruption kill over 50% of Iceland's livestock population, leading to famine which killed approximately 25% of the population; its effects were felt the world over, with flourine, sulfur dioxide, ash, sand and drastically cooled tempertaures from the blotted-out sun reaching as far afield as North America and Africa. The eruption lasted for nearly eight months. And from the day the eruption began, a humble priest named Jón Steingrímsson would make his mark in history. [more inside]
Where does your water come from? Global water supply chart. Global freshwater resources from the UN.
An erupting stratovolcano poses numerous hazards for nearby habitation, but none nearly so terrifying and deadly as the pyroclastic flow. Pyroclastic flows, comprised of tons of superheated sulfuric gases, particulate rock materials and ash, can reach temperatures of 1,830 °F and travel at alarming speeds up to 450mph. Convection of materials within the clouds causes them to become a suspension, fluidizing and thundering noxiously across the surrounding landscape for miles, in some cases even uphill or across open water. Wherever these clouds come in contact with humans the result is catastrophe, as the residents of Herculaneum and St. Pierre, Martinique learned within minutes of the eruptions of Vesuvius in 79AD and Pelee in 1902-- both towns were overwhelmed by pyroclastic clouds, igniting all flammable materials and incinerating and suffocating the inhabitants. None survived Herculaneum, while just two of St. Pierre's 26,000 survived, one of whom was a prisoner condemned to death and awaiting his execution in a dungeon cell. Despite their incredible capacity for violence, pyroclastic flows are also capable of producing mesmerizing, awe-inspiring beauty.
Birth of an Ocean: The Evolution of Ethiopia's Afar Depression. "Formation of an ocean is a rare event, one few scientists have ever witnessed. Yet this geophysical nativity is unfolding today in one of the hottest and most inhospitable corners of the globe." [Via]
Science Hack is a unique search engine for science videos focusing on Physics, Chemistry, and Space. For example, things to do with sulfur hexafluoride. Still growing, the editors are presently indexing other scientific fields of study including Geology, Psychology, Robotics and Computers. Ever wonder why things go bang?
OneGeology is an international initiative of the geological surveys of the world which is taking the data from the individual surveys and combining their data into a consistent format to produce the first digital geological map of the world. [more inside]
Surtsey was first observed on November 14, 1963, as a pillar of smoke on the water some ways south of Iceland. The very next day lava and tephra broke the surface of the Atlantic and by May, 1964 the formation had grown to 2.4 km². Over the next three years lava eruptions continued, coating the loose debris in a hard shell and protecting it from erosion. An island born. Naturally, Surtsey has been under close scientific observation since its emergence, and courtesy The Surtsey Research Society you can read published reports on the geology and biological colonization of this new earth.
Later this year, geophysicist Dan Lathrop's DIY Planet Earth will be filled with liquid sodium, weigh in at 26 tons, and will be spun-up to 80mph at its equator in an effort to discover how the earth's magnetic field is generated. Currently undergoing tests, even those can be pretty impressive.
In 1987, the Caltech biomagnetist and paleomagnetist Joe Kirschvink gave undergraduate Dawn Sumner a rock sample [from South Australia] to study for her senior thesis. The apparent glacial origin of this rock lead directly to the theory that periodically the Earth has been thoroughly glaciated from the poles to the Equator: the so-called Snowball Earth events. A website dedicated to this theory includes detailed teaching slides, a FAQ, and many other resources on this interesting period in Earth's history.
Suspending Life. "If almost every species on Earth was killed some 250 million years ago, how did our ancient ancestors survive and evolve into us?"
Answers Research Journal is a new "professional peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." Current Volume. Call for Papers.
The Mystery of the Sliding Rocks of Racetrack Playa. One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National Park is the sliding rocks at Racetrack Playa (a playa is a dry lake bed). These rocks can be found on the floor of the playa with long trails behind them. Somehow these rocks slide across the playa, cutting a furrow in the sediment as they move. Some of these rocks weigh several hundred pounds. That makes the question: "How do they move?" a very challenging one. [Via]. For more in-depth information, including maps and additional pictures, see Paula Messina's website about the Sliding Rocks.
British diplomat William Hamilton (whose 2nd wife Emma is perhaps best known for having a scandalous public affair with Horatio Nelson) loved volcanoes. His 1776 book Campi Flegrei: Observations on the volcanoes of the two Sicilies* used stunning hand-coloured illustrations by Peter Fabris to demonstrate to the scientific world that volcanic processes can be beautifully creative as well as horribly destructive. [via this post at the nonist, which, in case you hadn't noticed, has been really great lately] [more inside]
The GTC (Great Telescope Canaries) sees first light today. Apart from the sheer size (10.4 m) of its mirror and from the science it will deliver, the GTC is remarkable by its location at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory 2426 m high at the rim of the Caldera de Taburiente in the island of La Palma. La Palma is also, for a number of reasons, also interesting for geologists. In that regard, it made headlines a couple of years back due to a paper about the risk of a collapse of the island which could cause a devastating tsunami. Oh, and it's also a really nice place for a holiday.
Prototaxites, what is it? Is it wood? Is it algae? Why, it's a humungous fungus. Scientists were long baffled by the mystery organism, which was recently verified to be a 350 million year old fungus that stood more than twenty feet tall. It doesn't look like much in the hands of Geologist Kevin Boyce, but the far sexier artist's rendering gives you a better idea of what an odd geological bird Prototaxites was.
There are holes in the earth's crust! It turns out that the ozone layer was just keeping up with the Jones's; in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, there is a patch of several thousand square kilometers where the mantle is exposed. 'The team of scientists from Cardiff University stress there is no need for the public to panic about the giant hole even though they describe it as "a gaping open wound in the Earth's skin".' The scientific team departs today to investigate the hole. They will be detailing their progress on a blog. And you can ask them questions about their project, which they may answer online.
"You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you?
30 questions to elevate your awareness (and literacy) of the greater place in which you live.
30 questions to elevate your awareness (and literacy) of the greater place in which you live.
San Andreas primed to "explode." Growing up in SoCal, we constantly practiced earthquake drills in anticipation of the "Big One." Now, new evidence suggests that the Big One will be even worse than we all feared. At the moment, everything looks calm though. People say we're crazy for living in either San Francisco or Los Angeles, of course we think living in New Orleans is crazy too. But cities are rebuilt. And no matter where you go, you really can't escape natural disasters. Besides, some of the biggest earthquakes in the United States were in Missouri! In any case, Forbes compiled a list of the safest and least safest places to live in the U.S. in regards to natural disasters. Apparently... we should all move to Hawaii!
The site design is somewhat unfortunate, but The Virtual Cave features lots of photos and information on, well, caves and cave formations. We've all heard of stalagmites and stalactites, but I'd never heard of cave draperies or cave pearls before. Then you've got your helictites, your aragonite, and your splash stalactites (found in lava tubes). And they've got a Show Caves Directory of caves in the United States that are open to the public, with addresses and contact information by state.