Friday, September 30, 2011

Heavy metal stars...

produce Earth-like planets.

Sorry to disappoint those who thought this post was about Led Zeppelin.

Sleep easier tonight...

knowing that there are 44% fewer potentially threatening asteroids near Earth than previously estimated:  Mid-size Asteroids Not As Big Of A Threat.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Increasing indications...

of a potential eruption at El Hierro?

Though the probability is low, I note this here because I'll be visiting the Canary Islands in the spring 2012 as the geologist lecturer/guide for Zegrahm Expeditions.  A freshly spewing volcano would certainly be a highlight!

RELATED:  Satellite image from NASA's Earth Observatory.

It's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery...

Inside The Russian Short Wave Radio Enigma

Interesting. And strange.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

40.5 meter run-up measured...

from the tsunami that struck Japan in March: Survey of 2011 Tohoku earthquake tsunami inundation and run-up.

Image courtesy AGU.

Kepler's big haul...

One-Third of Sun-Like Stars Have Earth-Like Planets In Habitable Zone

Here's the technical abstract.  So the contribution of the second and third terms of the Drake equation (fp and ne) seems to have been initially quantified, making Fermi's paradox more significant.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tech news you can use...

Boost Your WiFi Signal Using Only a Beer Can

I tried this using an aluminum Diet Coke can during the weekend, and it indeed works.  I can only imagine the vast increase in range that might be achieved if I actually used a beer can.

First meeting of the Geology Club...

for the academic year occurs this Friday, 30 October, at 2 pm in SCI 135.  Be there or miss out on being part of one of the coolest (and the geekiest) student groups on campus.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another influential book...

that I recall thumbing through during junior high school as my interest in geology grew:
This isn't my original copy, but a fun gift from good friend DA. If you know a kid with a developing interest in earth science, an updated version is available.

Related previous post.

Update on white-nose syndrome...

Helping Bats Hold On

Remember, bats need friends.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Niña advisory issued for winter...

in the Pacific Northwest, according to the latest Weather Watcher Newsletter (.pdf):
"What this means for the Inland Northwest is more seasonal weather through the fall. But as we move into winter, there is a better chance for below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation for the Inland Northwest."
Terrific. I enjoyed the snowy weather last year.  Bring it on.

A wilderness by another measure...

that's defined by the most remote point relative to a McDonald's.  The "McFarthest" spot in the 48 coterminous states:  Where The Antelope Roam.  There's a cool map showing the density and distribution of the restaurants at the link.

Can you guess where it is before following the link?

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's field work Friday...

after a binge of extensive summer travel, where I missed making groundwater level measurements on the Rathdrum Prairie, Idaho, during the month of August.  Time to get back into the monthly routine.

The first day of autumn...

is upon us, when "the Sun, appearing to travel along the ecliptic, reaches the point where it crosses the equator into the southern celestial hemisphere" according to Ottewell's astronomical calendar.  For the record, that special moment occurred at precisely 2:04 am PDT.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No, hiding under an umbrella won't help...

6 Questions About NASA’s Falling Satellite

If the UARS satellite orbit continues to decay as expected, it will likely reenter somewhere along the tracks depicted on this graphic on Friday (click image to enlarge):
It looks like North America will be spared, and I predict it will splash down harmlessly in the ocean.

UPDATE:  It looks like the orbit is decaying slower than expected, likely due to a change in the orientation of the satellite, and it will reenter late Friday or Saturday.  That puts North America in the possible target zone.

THE LATEST from NASA:  "NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 23 and 1:09 a.m. EDT Sept. 24. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California said the satellite entered the atmosphere over the North Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of the United States. The precise re-entry time and location of any debris impacts are still being determined. NASA is not aware of any reports of injury or property damage."

FINAL UPDATE:  Big splash.

I thought my students were bored...

but it's more about brain temperature regulation: More than a sign of sleepiness, yawning may cool the brain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The first day of fall term...

occurs today and I am eager to see returning students and welcome the new crop of freshmen and transfer students into the geology major.  I've stepped down as director of environmental science after a decade of service in that position, wanting to return full time to teaching and research. I'm already busy writing a grant proposal to use ground penetrating radar to detect caves with no natural entrances, and am looking forward to my professional leave during spring term.  It will be a good academic year ahead - my 28th at EWU.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heads up...

as there's a 1 in 3,200 chance you'll be struck by falling space junk in the next few days:  Defunct NASA satellite to crash to Earth this week.  That probability seems ridiculously high, especially given that 75% of the globe is covered by water.

Regardless, I'm feeling lucky that I'll dodge this imminent threat.  Two days ago I was struck square in the forehead by a bird bomb while puttering around town in my convertible Super Beetle with the top down.  That's the third time in my life where I've been struck by bird droppings.  (I've also been shat upon by monkeys in the jungles of Central America during caving expeditions, but that's another story.)  Some believe that being struck by falling feces is a good omen, and that's how I'm interpreting the recent event.

As for the rest of you, look out.  NASA warns that "it is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry.  Predictions will become more refined over the next two days."

Demanding the impossible...

of seismologists in Italy:  Scientists on trial: At fault? 

RELATED: Relatives of L’Aquila earthquake victims sue scientists for £43 million.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cursed canyon?

Amos Richards saved after crawling 4 days across Utah desert in the same canyon where Aron Ralston amputated his arm in May 2003.

RELATED:  I visited Blue John Canyon in spring 2006 with EWU geology grad JL and his girlfriend.  Here's JL in one of the larger, upper parts of the slot canyon (click to enlarge):
It's a fascinating and sporting canyon system, with enormous chockstone boulders lodged seemingly dangerously overhead in many places.  If this were a Road Runner cartoon the Wile E. Coyote would almost certainly be guillotined by one of these babies:
This narrow section is below, but very close to, where Aron cut his arm off to free himself after five days of entrapment by a rotating chockstone:
At the end of the slot one emerges onto one of the coolest ledges in canyon country, where a 70 ft rappel must be rigged in order to continue down canyon.  Imagine doing this with only one arm after you've just amputated the other:
About six miles further down canyon you pass through the Horseshoe Canyon section of Canyonlands National Park, passing the Grand Gallery, one of the finest rock art panels on the Colorado Plateau:
It's clear why this is a popular canyon to explore, but solo hikers should be (1) extra cautious and (2) let others know their plans.  I certainly do.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I started walking out at 6 am...

in the dark, using my headlamp to illuminate the trail, after extricating myself from my bivi bag in an early season snowstorm in the Pintler Wilderness.  I had solo hiked ~ 9 mi the day before to Oreamnos Lake, situated in a glacial basin immediately astride the Continental Divide, and head of the Pintler Creek drainage.  Here's a shot I took upon arrival, with West Pintler Peak standing in the distance (click to enlarge):
I explored the upper basin in the late afternoon, scouting approaches to tomorrow's climbing objectives, and here's a view back toward the lake, and to East Pintler Peak (bald summit on the left):
The weather was stable and clear at dinner time, and as my water came to a boil for my freeze-dried meal, I mulled the possible routes to the summits of the two aforementioned peaks:
As bull elk bugled eerily nearby in the alpine basin, I took this last image at sunset:
Around 9 pm the stars began to disappear when the wind picked up, as an enormous lightning/thunderstorm rolled over the divide.  I was buried in my bivi bag when it began raining heavily, eventually falling asleep in a steady drizzle as the storm waned.  Upon wakening in the early morning the precipitation had turned to snow flurries, and I thought it best to head down the mountain, abandoning my climbing goals for another occasion.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The road tripping pendulum...

swings back to Montana on this last full week of summer, when I leave this morning for my traditional trip into the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness near Wisdom.  Classes resume at the university a week from tomorrow, so I'm trying to milk at least one last adventure before settling in for fall term.  A trip report will follow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Congratulations to Robin and Tom...

who were wed on this day at noon in southern Oregon, and for whom I conducted the marriage ceremony!  A terrific time was had by the ~75 family and friends in attendance (there was a strong showing by EWU biology and geology faculty), and I'll post some pics as soon as I receive them from friends.

UPDATE:  Here are a couple of pics of the ceremony, courtesy of Eric Wesselman (click to enlarge):
Even Freya was spellbound as Robin emotionally recited her vows:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two volcanoes in two days...

was my goal, so I set my sites on Mount McLoughlin today, seen here to the north across Lake of the Woods:
The sign at the trailhead offers guidance and warnings to the casual visitor, as this is indeed an arduous hike that climbs ~ 4,100 ft over 5.5 mi (though there are no technical challenges on the route):
Once you emerge from the trees the summit comes into view, but still more than a mile away and a thousand feet higher:
By noon I was on top and enjoying commanding vistas of Upper Klamath Lake (upper right) and Fourmile Lake (center left) where I spent the night before:
And here's a self portrait after I descended a short distance from the summit to eat a snack, with an attempt at pointing out where I came from:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "lighning rod of the Cascades"...

is a nickname assigned to Mt. Thielsen, and perhaps you can see how it's earned this distinction in this view with Diamond Lake in the foreground (click to enlarge):
The sunrise the morning of my solo dash to the summit was spectacular, a harbinger of the great experience that awaited me on the West Ridge route:
Once I emerged from the trees and climbed above the Pacific Crest Trail, the volcanic geology of the mountain presented itself in stunning outcrops:
The last couple of pitches, although Class 4 grade, are real butt-puckerer's (if you know what I mean), especially given the extraordinary exposure of the summit block.  Here's the view to the south, catching a bit of the remaining rim of Mt. Mazama (Crater Lake) in the distance, with my toes at the bottom of the image:
And here's a shot to the north, looking pretty much straight down to the Lathrop Glacier, about 1,200 ft below me:
On the descent I examined an area where, in the recent past, a strong wind has blown down a swath of the forest, uprooting hundreds of large trees:
It's a wonder that they can find any purchase at all in the deep, pumiceous soils around the lower part of the mountain:

Monday, September 5, 2011

'Tis the eve of my next road trip...

that embarks tomorrow morning and I am busily back-posting several entries related to my recent travels to Montana and Wyoming.  Scroll down to catch the latest, albeit tardy, entries.  Apologies for the delay in getting these posts published, but consulting projects, home chores and university business held greater priorities this last week in residence.

So, what's the plan for the next excursion?  Tomorrow I head for Oregon with intentions of climbing a couple of volcanoes along the way, Mt. Thielsen on Wednesday and Mt. McLoughlin on Thursday, then ultimately landing at my friends' wedding near Klamath Falls over the weekend that I've been asked to officiate.

Fun and challenging, all around.  Stay tuned for a post-trip report, and a considerably more timely one this time around.