Carleton Geology Alums In The News

  • The Altiplano-Puna plateau is a high, dry region in the central Andes that includes parts of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, with vast plains punctuated by spectacular volcanoes. In a study published October 25 in Nature Communications, researchers used remote sensing data and topographic modeling techniques to reveal an enormous dome in the plateau.

    About 1 kilometer (3,300 feet) high and hundreds of miles across, the dome sits right above the largest active magma body on Earth. The uplifting of the dome is the result of the thickening of the crust due to the injection of magma from below, according to Noah Finnegan, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz and senior author of the paper.

    "The dome is Earth's response to having this huge low-density magma chamber pumped into the crust," Finnegan said.

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  • Emily Schwing is a journalist with a knack for mixing science and story-telling.  She's most at home in the natural environment, getting to know people who are affected by things like climate change and resource development. She's also been known to track down scientists on things like ecosystem restoration, changing environments and human/environment interactions.

    Her work in Alaska has garnered her the title of 'Mushing Correspondent.'​ She's covered the 1000 mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race since 2010 and the 1000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race since 2012. That's more than 9000 miles worth of tales from the trail!

    Schwing also produces work for National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera America, Public Radio International, Koahnic Broadcasting and National Native News and Mushing Magazine. She has contributed stories to American Public Media, Monitor Radio and Deutsche Welle.

    Here she reports on the reconciliation process with Native American nations:

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  • AMHERST, Mass. - Geomorphologists who study Earth's surface features and the processes that formed them have long been interested in how floods, in particular catastrophic outbursts that occur when a glacial lake ice dam bursts, for example, can change a planet's surface, not only on Earth but on Mars.

    Now geoscience researchers Isaac Larsen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Michael Lamb at the California Institute of Technology have proposed and tested a new model of canyon-forming floods which suggests that deep canyons can be formed in bedrock by significantly less water than previously thought. They point out that "reconstructing the magnitude of the canyon-forming floods is essential for understanding how floods modify planetary surfaces, the hydrology of early Mars, and abrupt climate change."

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  • Citation by Michael Elliot Smith

    I’m honored to nominate professor and GSA Fellow Alan Carroll of the University of Wisconsin–Madison for the Israel C. Russell Award. Alan Carroll’s exploration of Earth’s ancient lakes has resulted in fundamental advances in the study of lacustrine systems and terrestrial stratigraphy. His publications span four decades. Alan’s approach to sedimentary basins integrates detailed compositional and stratigraphic analysis, bed- to tectonic-scale problem solving, and a spirit of exploration. His deep-time paleolimnologic focus has inspired a generation of students to venture forth into the unknown in search of stratigraphic truths. Alan is well deserving of the honor.

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  • Two CWU geology professors, Lisa Ely and Breanyn MacInnes, have received more than a quarter of a million dollars to study historic geological data in south-central Chile in order to better understand and assess the effects of powerful earthquakes and tsunamis, like those that occur in the Northwest.

    Based on information gleaned in the field, MacInnes will develop computer simulations of tsunamis that could result from different megathrust fault ruptures to estimate the size and location of earthquakes in the last 2,000 years.

    By working backwards from the evidence left in layers of sand and dirt, and in the tiny fossil shells of diatoms (a unique form of algae), investigators will try to deduce the origin and number of tsunamis in a particular area. They also hope to calculate the magnitude and characteristics of the ruptures and earthquakes.

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  • I must have been five in the first storm I remember, walking home in Manhattan. I’d never seen rain like that, rain that soaked in an instant and made my favorite blue velvet slippers slide over the slick asphalt. Walk on the painted white line, my mother shouted above the roar of drops, it’s raised a little. And indeed it was enough of a difference to let me cross, one sodden slipper at a time.

    A few things stick with me, attached to the image of blue slippers on a white line. A few inches of rain were enough to make it seem the sky was falling; a few millimeters enough to make a painted line into a bridge. Small differences, I learned, matter.

    Once that thought was enough. It took root as I studied lakes in Tanzania, the summer after my sophomore year of college. I could always do this work, I imagined—research that sought to understand the environmental problems of the world. I thought eagerly of incremental change when a professor told me that science could profoundly alter the world, pull the rug out from under everyone’s feet. The idea guided me from a degree in geology to an application to do environmental work with the Peace Corps. My goals were modest: not saving the world, just doing a little good. Finding a little purpose...

    The reality was that paleoclimatology is a topic that makes eyes glaze over after the second syllable, one that people, sometimes including myself, consider academic in the dullest sense of the word. Worse yet could be using the phrase “climate scientist,” which risked derailing conversations and silencing formerly friendly checkout ladies. I found myself envying my doctor friends: how much more unassailable of a purpose can you have than healing others?

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  • Salem Hills Elementary School in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota had an all-school Water Fair a couple weeks ago that Sarah Alexander and I got the chance to attend.

    Salem Hills has been partnering with H2O for Life for many years, providing schools all over the world access to clean water. The Water Fair helped raise money for this year’s project: San Pablo School in Guatemala. Two gyms were filled with activities and excited (and well-behaved) students! In one of the gyms there were students presenting on water-related diseases with poster boards, educating others about Guatemala with trivia games, and demonstrating with dioramas how much water it takes to produce some of the foods we eat. Some of the other activities were penny tinfoil boat races, making worry dolls, Guatemalan dancing, a water droplet wall, water-themed tattoos, and a water taste test.

    In the other gym, students showed off their engineering skills by displaying a huge selection of games made out of cardboard that included water and Guatemalan facts. These games were all so engaging and impressive – and challenging! All the time and effort that went into making these games really paid off. The kids loved describing how their games worked and watching us play and take pictures. These kids are brilliant!

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  • Deep in the solidified lava beneath Iceland, scientists have managed an unprecedented feat: They’ve taken carbon dioxide released by a power plant and turned it into rock at a rate much faster than laboratory tests predicted.

    The findings, described in the journal Science, demonstrate a powerful method of carbon storage that could reduce some of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

    “These are really exciting results,” said Roger Aines, a geochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was not involved in the study. “Nobody had ever actually done a large-scale experiment like they’ve done, under the conditions that they did it.”

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  • Operated by the UW and the University of Oregon, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) monitors volcanic and seismic activity across the United States.

    The PNSN also keeps a detailed history of Mount St. Helens’ activity. Mount St. Helens had a major eruption in 1980 that famously blew its top off, giving the volcano its distinct appearance. In addition, Mount St. Helens had a series of smaller eruptions between 2004 and 2008...

    Mount St. Helens also won’t erupt without warning. 

    “We would see a number of things happening over days to weeks before a large eruption, such as increased gas emissions, steam eruptions, increased ground inflation, and much shallower seismicity,” said Carl Ulberg, a graduate student in the earth and space sciences department.

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  • The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a polar desert in coastal Antarctica, where glaciers, permafrost, ice-covered lakes, and ephemeral summer streams coexist. Liquid water is found at the surface only in lakes and in the temporary streams that feed them.

    Past geophysical exploration has yielded ambiguous results regarding the presence of subsurface water. In 2011, we used a helicopter borne, time-domain electromagnetic (TDEM) sensor to map resistivity in the subsurface across the Dry Valleys.

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