Stories tagged geology

Literally dig deeper into the earth surface and discover what is lying right under your feet.

James Hutton: Father of Modern Geology. Portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn.Courtesy Public domain (via Wikipedia)
James Hutton, born this day in 1726, was a Scottish farmer and doctor (although he never practiced medicine), and is often regarded as the "Father of Modern Geology". Through direct observations and studies of geological features in and around Great Britain, Hutton conceived the scientific ideas of uniformitarianism and deep time that directly challenged the popular biblical-based notion of the Earth being only 6000 years old. Hutton was a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburough and his book Theory of the Earth set the basis for modern geological theory.

Hutton biography at Encyclopedia of Earth

This isn't today's Science Friday video, but it's a recent Science Friday video that I missed, OK? You'll like it, anyway. Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
This time,
"In 1968, the New Jersey Senate decreed the town of Franklin a geological wonder: "The Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World." Over 350 different minerals have been found in the area, ninety of which glow brilliantly under ultraviolet light. There are two mineral museums devoted to fluorescing rocks, the region's unusual geology and its zinc mining history."

This astounding video came to my attention via an email yesterday. It's yet another view of the awesome destructive power of the tsunami that arose from the Japan earthquake of March 11, 2011. The video was taken from a hillside in the resort town of Minami-Sanriku. It's amazing the kinds of events our modern technology allows us to witness.

James Hutton: Founder of Modern Geology.
James Hutton: Founder of Modern Geology.Courtesy Public domain (via Wikipedia)
Today is the 314th anniversary of the death of Scottish physician, naturalist, and geologist James Hutton. Born in 1726, Hutton is considered the founder of modern geology and best remembered for his theory of the rock cycle, and of uniformitarianism. His concept of deep time was groundbreaking in its day and shattered the popular Bible-based notion that the Earth was a mere 6000 years old. Hutton died on this date in 1797.

James Hutton biography

UPDATE: Here's an updated video showing the terrifying force of the tsunami that swept across the Japanese city of Sendai. It's not just an unstoppable wave; it's a juggernaut of debris.

8.9 magnitude earthquake hits Japan
8.9 magnitude earthquake hits JapanCourtesy USGS
A monster earthquake hit northern Japan today at 2:46pm local time (11:46pm CST) causing tremendous damage including the triggering of a deadly and devastating tsunami. The images of destruction coming out of the country are both stunning and heartbreaking. Early reports say a 30-foot wave slammed into the city of Sendai washing away houses, cars and other debris – some of it in flames. The city is located about 80 miles from the quake’s epicenter and has a population of over 1 million people. According to the USGS Earthquake site the tremblor occurred at a depth of about 15 miles. The initial shaking is reported to have lasted two minutes, and has been followed by several strong aftershocks. It’s the most powerful quake to hit Japan in 140 years, and there are already reports of 200-300 deaths. But unfortunately that will more than likely rise as time goes on and reports are updated. Tsunami warnings have been issued across much of the Pacific Rim and also Russia. Seven foot waves have already hit Hawaii.

NOAA's Tsunami Warning Center
USGS Earthquake center

Although it’s been in a constant state of eruption for nearly three decades, Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has upped the ante with the appearance of a new fissure that’s been tossing a spectacular spray of molten lava up to 80 feet into the air. Recent rockfalls from the widening vent have produced rumblings and popping sounds as blocks of rock as large as small cars have dropped into the rising lava lake. The US Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory has set up a web cam to monitor the volcano’s activity.

Eruption story
Collapsing vent story
Hawaii Volcano Observatory

New Zealand earthquake location
New Zealand earthquake locationCourtesy USGS
A strong earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand toppling several buildings and killing an undetermined number of people. According to the US Geological Survey the magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred at a depth of 3.1 miles near Christchurch, which is New Zealand's second largest city. The quake struck on Tuesday at 12:51PM local time (6:51PM Monday EST), followed by several strong aftershocks. The city's population of 350,00 has been recovering from a similar quake that struck last September 4th.

CNN report


Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.
Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.Courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory
The gigantic volcano seething under Yellowstone National Park could be ready to erupt with the force of a thousand Mt. St. Helenses! Large parts of the U.S. could be buried under ash and toxic gas!

Or, y'know, not.

This story has popped up in a couple of places recently, including National Geographic's website and, more sensationally, the UK's Daily Mail. Shifts in the floor of Yellowstone's caldera indicate that magma may be pooling below the surface, a phenomenon that might be the very earliest stages of an eruption. Then again, it's difficult to predict volcanic eruptions with much accuracy because there's no good way to take measurements of phenomena happening so far below the earth's surface.

Incidentally, the contrast in tone between the two stories makes them an interesting case study in science reporting: The Daily Mail plays up the possible risk and horrific consequences of an eruption, while National Geographic is much more matter-of-fact about the remoteness of that possibility. Which do you think makes better reading?

It was the most exciting play of the opening round of the NFL playoffs this week. Marshawn Lynch's game-clinching 67-yard TD run wasn't just a visual thrill, but the excited crowd in the stands reacting the play actually caused the ground to quake for about 30 seconds. A seismic monitoring station is located next to the stadium and researchers there found a significant change in readings in their monitoring equipment during and after the run. Lots of Saints defenders were feeling crushed after things settled down, too.