Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time to head to the desert...

since March is now third-wettest on record in Spokane:
"Spokane recorded 0.62 inch of rain through 5 p.m. today, pushing the total for the month to 3.31 inches. That eclipses last March when 3.25 inches fell. The wettest March was in 1995 at 3.81 inches."
Here's a convenient web page showing the flooding status for streams in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

Indeed, this is hastening my departure for southern Utah later this week where I'll spend spring term engaged in various research projects during my leave from the university.

UPDATED and BUMPED: Spokane sets March rainfall record.  It's official.  Soggiest March on record since 1881.

Checking the check list...

(and even double-checking) shows that I'm ready to head out tomorrow morning on a meandering migration to Utah where I'll stay for nearly the next four months.  I'll work on several geologic/hydrologic projects during my professional leave from the university during spring term, travel for a month with Zegrahm Expeditions to western Africa and various Atlantic islands, and take some time to hike-bike-climb-explore canyon country and the Henry Mountains.

Stay tuned dear readers.  I'll chronicle many of these activities in this silly blog in the days and weeks ahead.

Dynamic wind map...

traces air flow over the US in near real time based on one-hour differences in barometric pressure.  It's zoomable, but I wish you could toggle on/off state boundaries.

Don't stare at it too long.  It's hypnotic.


Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Artifact from Apollo 11...

discovered in 14,000 ft of water in the Atlantic Ocean by the guy that founded Bezos Expeditions F-1 Engine Recovery.  Pretty cool, especially if they can raise them intact.

Here's a previous post showing the last Saturn V rocket on display at the Kennedy Space Center that I toured last April.

Mars Science Laboratory...

adjusts its trajectory and tests instruments as it passes the midpoint on its nine month voyage to the red planet.  The Curiosity rover is scheduled to land in Gale crater in August and, so far, everything appears nominal for the mission.

Is it snowing microbes...

on Enceladus?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shuttle Atlantis over Tenerife...

in the Canary Islands, as photographed during a previous mission from the International Space Station (click image for high res version):
North is to the left in the image, and you can clearly see the Pico del Teide volcano within the Las CaƱadas caldera through the break in the clouds over the island.

Personal note:  I'll be exploring Tenerife and the volcanic edifice seen here in about five weeks time with Zegrahm Expeditions as their geologist lecturer/guide.  I'm getting excited.

Mercury has a liquid core...

and other new surprises from the innermost planet. Terrific images at the link.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Scientists use rare mineral...

to correlate past climate events in Europe and Antarctica, establishing that the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period were global in extent.

Hmm.  That's not the way it's supposed to work. Al Gore, call your office.

Storming the Bastille...

karst in remote northern British Columbia in 1988 with a small international team of cavers began with multiple airlifts of gear and personnel deep into the wilderness.  We established our base camp below Bastille Mountain at tree line, with the helicopter seen here dropping one of several nets of gear in support of our expedition (click images to enlarge):
That's Mount Sir Alexander standing tall in the distance, the northernmost peak over 3200 m (10,500 ft) in the Rocky Mountains, seen during the helicopter flight into our objective:
The alpine karst is developed on a thrust-faulted sheet of glacially scoured Devonian limestone, and the large peak in the near distance is - no joke - named Mount Buchanan:

Large shafts take the meltwater from surrounding icefields, swallowing the frigid runoff in its entirety:
Here's Canadian caver BM beginning his rappel into one such pit, carefully rigging off to the side to avoid as much as possible the icy spray of a waterfall:
Lastly, here's an expansive view of the karst plateau below Wallbridge Mountain, taken from the summit of Mount Buchanan (yes, indeed, I had to climb the namesake summit):
We discovered dozens of pits and one large cave during the ten day assault, and the area is still ripe for discovery.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The line is already forming...

in France as New Agers anticipate rescue aboard an alien spaceship from the upcoming apocalypse.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Is there anything...

it can't do?

Red Wine, Tartaric Acid, and the Secret of Superconductivity

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mesmerizing rivers of lava...

Periodic bedrock ridges...

are a newly identified landform on Mars, although resembling dunes, are likely shaped by wind erosion.

I'll have to recalibrate my thinking when I hear "PBR" from now on.

Friday, March 23, 2012

First egg ready to hatch...

in a bald eagle nest in Decorah, Iowa, and you can watch via the eagle cam.

Zoom through 62 orders of magnitude...

in scale from the mind-boggling small to the unimaginably huge at The Scale of the Universe 2.  Pretty cool visualization.  Check it out, people who like to check things out.

Hat tip:  The Bu bro.

RELATED:  Here's another similar demonstration of scale that I posted earlier.

Guess what's the fastest-adopted gadget...

of the last 50 Years. You'll be surprised at the answer, and cell phones aren't even close.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Riding the booster...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It may look like a pizza...

but it's actually a new map of the surface of Io, one of Jupiter's moons and the most volcanically active body in the solar system:
More here at the USGS: Geologic Map of Io.

Image credit:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today's strong earthquake in Mexico...

was caught by the seismometer at EWU (click to enlarge):

The USGS fixes the location of the 7.4 magnitude event near Oaxaca.  Here's an early news account.

Diligent kitchen helper...

Spring has sprung...

in the northern hemisphere, with day and night being equal length today on the vernal equinox.  Warmer and longer days are ahead.  Oh, the joy!

UPDATE:  There are two inches of snow on the back deck this morning.  Sheesh.  Some spring.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's head-bangin' time...

as final exams get underway this week at EWU.  Study hard and good luck!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Streamflow forecasts...

for drainage basins in the western US, based on snow pack as of the first of March, can be found here.  It shows the Upper Columbia Basin with near normal to above average conditions, while the Sanpoil and Kettle River basins seem to be lagging at 70-89% of normal.

The map does not incorporate the considerable precipitation that has occurred during the month of March.  Stay tuned, and I'll post it when it becomes available.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fiery geologic history...

of the Moon visualized in a short video:

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's field work Friday...

yet again, and I'll head out the door shortly for the Rathdrum Prairie in Idaho to check groundwater levels in the aquifer.  There's a torrential downpour going on so it's a good day for recharge, but not so great for field work.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Avoid hypoxia...

and vicariously tag along with Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their successful conquest of Mount Everest in 1953 in this historic documentary film.  And remember, this was achieved well before today's lightweight alpine gear and Gore-Tex.

So you think you know...

how to tie your shoes?  Well, think again.  There's always a better way to do things.

Hat tip:  DB.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The conjunction of Jupiter and Venus...

in the western night sky this evening, captured at around 8 pm PDT, shows the bright planets seemingly side-by-side (click to enlarge):
Their relative orientation will change quickly this week, so keep watching if the weather provides clear skies.

First human footprints...

on another world seen in a high resolution image of the Apollo 11 landing site, captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.  Cool.

RELATED:  I remember watching this mission's moon walk when I was a kid.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let's get small...

Credit: The Wall Street Journal.

What does your favorite...

map projection say about you?  Heh.

Hat tip:  BH.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Every form of precipitation...

fell this afternoon at my digital cottage in the forest, and now the sun is peeking out.  Here's a snap of some pea-sized hail on the back deck at around 4 pm (click to enlarge):
It almost seems like winter's throwing everything at us as the first day of spring approaches.

Your grumpiness is understandable...

as Daylight Saving Time begins today, especially since an hour was lost when we set clocks ahead last night.  And please note that it's "saving" and not "savings" as many people incorrectly state.  Yeah, it's a pet peeve of mine, or maybe I'm just grumpy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The first bat has arrived...

for the season and is hunkered down in the bat house above the back deck.  I noticed several guano pellets on the deck this morning indicating the box was likely occupied, and I just confirmed it by peering inside with a flashlight.  Last year there were more than 80 bats in residence (I never got an accurate count).  Welcome back!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Condor chick about to hatch...

at the San Diego Zoo in the next day or so, and you can watch live via the on-line condor cam.  And don't forget about the eagle cam in Iowa where three eggs are expected to hatch by the end of the month.

Entire wreck site of Titantic mapped...

in high resolution for first time, showing the 3 x 5 mi (5 x 8 km) debris field in stunning detail, to be released next month on the 100 year anniversary of its sinking on 15 April 1912.  Here's a related article that includes some excellent images.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Experience a virtual field trip...

to Mount St. Helens using these two linked videos.  They were shot and narrated by me in the mid-1990s during a week-long EWU geology field trip to the volcano.  Realize there was no such thing as digital HD technology at that time, but they are still pretty cool to watch.  Enjoy.
NOTE: These should work fine if you have the QuickTime player installed.

Neither do most college students...

Velociraptors Didn't Turn Down Free Meals

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The serpent dust devil...

of Mars, captured in action by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (click to enlarge):
the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Read more about this serendipitous image here.

You've been warned this would happen...

and this is just a tiny one: Solar storm headed toward Earth may disrupt power.

Not to say I told you so, oh heck, yes I will.  You will find two previous posts about this serious hazard here and here.

Since they sound like thunderstorms...

perhaps earthquakes should be called "tectonic storms":  Audio Created From Japanese Seismic Wave Records.

Remember, if this term catches on, it was coined here first.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Operation hatch-watch commences...

at this bald eagle nest in Iowa. There are three eggs in the nest being tended to by mom and dad, and the chicks are expected to hatch near the end of the month of March.  Enjoy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mars is at opposition...

this weekend, meaning that the Earth and the red planet are in alignment on the same side of the Sun, and it's also the closet the two planets will approach each other in 2012.  Here's a map view of the solar system showing the positions of all the planets, and a sky map if you want to go out around midnight and locate it in the night sky.  Look toward the south and up, and it'll be the bright red object in Leo.  (Here's a more advanced sky map if you want to track the motion of Mars over the next few months and into late summer.)

NOTE:  Just a little east of Mars, Saturn will be glowing bright yellow in Virgo, very near the hot white-blue star Spica.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pics from the past...

taken during one of many climbing trips to the Bugaboo Mountains in British Columbia (click images to enlarge).  I'm tweaking a lecture on alpine glaciation and found these while looking for images to use in the presentation.

This adventure, in the late-1990s, set the objective of climbing Snowpatch Spire with partners RE and JL, seen in silhouette below:
Here's the view of the crevassed glacier below, from a point about midway on the ascent:
I've momentarily paused my belay of RE, seen lower-right, as I snap a shot showing the broad glacial valley and lateral moraines:
Once on top the Pigeon Spire (left) and Howser Towers (distance) present themselves in spectacular fashion:
And here's the requisite hero shot on the summit:
Indeed, life begins above tree line.

Physicist terrified of geologists...

on The Big Bang Theory: "Oh dear.  Not the dirt people!"

Heh. At least the earth sciences rank higher than the disdain shown for the liberal arts!

Arm yourself...

against verbose politicians (and professors): Japanese researchers build a gun capable of stopping speakers in mid-sentence.

This technology also has applications in libraries, theaters and on the annoying dude yammering loudly on the cell phone next to you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What's going on...

with NASA?

Musically talented quadrotors...

Brilliant! And here's a previous related post about these amazing and autonomous flying machines.

The geologist licensing board...

for Washington State will be meeting on the EWU campus on Tuesday, 6 March.  During their confab they will cater a free lunch in Tawanka 215C where they will discuss requirements for professional registration.  If you're a geology student you might seriously consider attending the forum.  Hey, it's free food.

Probability of a solar megastorm...

similar to the Carrington Event of 1859 is estimated at 12% over the coming decade.  That's not trivial, and the consequences would be catastrophic to the electrical infrastructure and the functioning of electronic gadgets that we increasingly rely upon in our daily lives.  There would be, however, spectacular auroras.

Here's a related previous post about this very serious and potentially crippling threat.