Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Water Year that is. On October 1st we start the 2009 water year. The graph on the left is the 2008 water year for Red Mountain Pass. It was a good year.

You can see that the snow accumulation started late. October and November were warm and dry. Then on December 1, as if a switch were thrown, the snow started coming down and didn't stop until April, where it then slowed down a bit. The spring was cool with a few storms here and there, but the snow still melted out earlier than the historical average would have predicted.

Now we are getting ready for the new water year, hoping that there will be enough moisture for all. The graph is all ready on the web site, now all we need is snow.

NOAA is predicting southwestern Colorado will have slightly below average moisture in the fall changing to equal chances of normal precipitation in late winter.

Stay tuned and we will see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Carnival in space- Accretionary Wedge 13

This month, Good Schist ask about our interest in geology off planet. I am cheating somewhat since my post is about a phenomenon that happens here on earth as well as in space. That is the idea of impact craters.

Looking up at the moon the cratered surface is pretty easy to make out even with the naked eye. With a small telescope you can easily see that indeed those shapes up there are little pock marks. Boy, did that observation get Galileo in trouble when he suggested that a heavenly body might just have zits.

We can be reasonably sure that an old surface will have a greater chance of being hit by objects flying in space. ..so the older the surface the greater the density of craters there should be, conversely, new surfaces should be somewhat clean of impacts. Using this idea, I have had many of my high school and undergrad Astronomy students counting craters to determine relative ages of different surfaces. The maria regions having fewer craters indicate a newer surface and the upland regions being just pockmarked with craters indicate an older surface.

Airless bodies, like the moon are pretty straight forward. However, the Earth and any other planets with active weathering are a little harder to study. We want to look not only at the density of craters, but examine how quickly they are obliterated by geology. The Earth then ups the ante with active plate tectonics so that the old craters are not just weathered away, but completely recycled. And then there is Venus. The old debate between catastrophism and uniformitarianism has been getting a work out on that planet. . I won't get into the Venus mystery as hypo-thesis covers it in great detail.

Craters have now been counted all over the solar system, the inner terrestrial planets and the moons of the outer gas giants. It is fun to show students how much information can be gleaned from a bunch of pictures sent back from our robotic explorers.

I think the overall favorite impact crater we ever studied was Herschel on Saturn's moon Mimas. Every student of mine has called this the death star, interesting because the movie was made a few years before we had any imagery from Saturn showing us the moon.

This unit always brings up the idea concerning the chances of a repeat K-T impact on our modern world. Most kids don't believe it could happen again until we pull out the Earth Crossing Asteroid list. But as I often tell them, Geology happens and that includes impacts from space.

Monday, September 22, 2008

meeting geobloggers

Last week I found myself on the Fort Lewis college campus and thought I would try and find fellow geoblogger Kim at All of My Faults are Stress Related. It was great fun to interrupt her work saying my name is Ed but am also known as Geology Happens. We had a fun quick visit, talking about some of our recent posts and then had to go our own respective ways. Kim had a class to teach and I had a mountain to climb.

So Kim, thanks for giving me part of your busy day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

5 minerals

I saw the original meme about 50 minerals and thought, well that seemed like too much thinking for me right now. When I saw Callan's 5 mineral challenge, I figured I could put a few brain cells into action.

1. Quartz: When you spend as much time tromping through sand stones as I do then quartz should be high on your personal list. Not to mention that its pretty stable with our current environmental conditions so we find it in so many places.

2. Hematite: less as those great crystal specimens from that favorite 101 lab but more as one of the mineral cements holding my favorite sandstones together. I love finding concretions on field trips.

3. Pyrite: Living on the North side of the San Juan Mountains we are blessed with more than our fair share of water tainted with acid mine drainage. the pyrite to sulfuric acid reaction is always a favorite in my high school classes.

4. Calcite: Limestone is such a fun rock to find in the desert, not to mention the many calcite veins that my students are just positive are hydrothermal quartz veins.

5. Ice: I spent last Monday hiking up to and along a long ridge above treeline. The effects of alpine glaciation was just as dramatic as the more modern weathering taking place because of the many freeze thaw cycles we see at 12,000 feet.

Thanks for the idea of spending a comfortable 1/2 hour thinking deep geological thoughts. And, now back to work.


What a remarkable day for particle physics. They sure have big toys to work with, but at least my lab bench has always been the big outside! Check out this video about the Large Hadron Collider.

Monday, September 8, 2008

geoblogosphere survey

I just saw that NOVA Geoblog is taking a survey concerning who we are and what we are doing. The incredible growth of geology blogs in the past year has been mind boggling or is it mind blogging?? I started geo-blogging because I was hooked on finding the "Where on Google Earth" location but was never fast enough.

I am looking forward to seeing his final results. Go on over to NOVA geoblog and tell us all about why you blog about rocks.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming

A new email from the Union of Concerned Scientists just popped up in my mail box. They are teaming with penguin books and creating an online anthology of stories (in the vein of Thoreau and Carson) about our current environmental problem-global warming. If you haven't heard of the Union of Concerned Scientists, they seem to be spending all of their time right now trying to show how the current folks in Washington haven't been using the most current scientific thought to make decisions. They also just had a great editorial cartoon contest and are suing the winners to create a calendar for next year. I actually gave a few calendars as gifts last Christmas. The topics are so sad they are funny. Check it out here. They have a thought provoking web site.