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Friday, February 28, 2014

Transgression Animation

This photo was taken on the Missouri River in central Montana. It shows the Eagle Sandstone beneath the Claggett Shale. Both were formed during the late Cretaceous Period when the Western Interior Seaway covered much of eastern Montana. As the sea fluctuated, the type of sediment deposited in this place changed. Sand was deposited when this location was near the shore and silt (shale) was deposited when this location was deeper (farther from the shore). To understand how the depth at this location changed, watch this ANIMATION. Be sure to watch both parts.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

1964 Alaska Earthquake Lecture (webcast)

This March 27th marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake. To listen to a lecture about the 1964 quake and or other geology-related lectures (Yellowstone volcano, etc.), CLICK HERE. NOTE: The Earthquake lecture was webcast live on February 26 - If the lecture is not on the website yet, it should be posted soon (check back later).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Density Lab: Gabbro, Basalt, Granite

Here is my version of an activity that many Earth Science teachers do. Students use a water displacement technique to determine the density of three different igneous rocks. CLICK HERE to print a handout, read a detailed description, and view photos of the lab. If you don't have aluminum overflow containers, make your own (photo).

Students results will vary because they are kids! - AND not all granites, basalts, and gabbros contain exactly the same minerals. According to the density of granite ranges from 2.6-2.7 g/cm3 and basalt is 2.8-3.0 g/cm3. Since gabbro and basalt are made of the same minerals, their densities are similar. Gabbro's density ranges from 2.7-3.3 g/cm3.

The day after the lab is a good time to question the students about the significance of rock densities. Here are some questions for discussion:

1. What do you think causes some rock types to have higher densities than others? (Assuming there are no air pockets in the rock, the types of minerals will determine the density. Granite contains lots of quartz and feldspar - both fairly light minerals, whereas basalt and gabbro are made of heavier minerals.)

2. Consider a zone of subduction. Why is it that when ocean crust and continental crust collide, the ocean crust always goes under the continental crust, and not vice versa? (Ocean crust is made of basalt and continental crust is mostly granite.)

3. Which would be less dense - granite, or magma that contains the same minerals as granite? (The molten minerals would less dense for the same reason hot water is less dense than cold water, and hot air is less dense than cold air. Molecules that are moving faster tend to be farther apart. This is why molten material tends to melt its way to the surface. It's a density thing!)

4. I have a large scrap of gabbro counter-top, and I ask students, "How would you determine the density of this piece of gabbro ?" (They would need to find the mass, and then measure the length, width, and height to determine the volume in cm3 -> photo.) The slab weighs 17.8 lbs. (8,073.9 g.) so the density is 3.0 g/cm3 (photo.)

5. I have a large irregular sample of porphyry that fits in the aluminum overflow container, but has a volume that exceeds 100 mL. I ask, "How would you determine the density of this, using the equipment used in your lab?" (They would need to pour 100 mL of the overflow into the graduated cylinder, empty the cylinder, and repeat, keeping track of the total amount poured into the cylinder.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pyroclastic Flow Causes "Tornadoes"

Although they are not really tornadoes - actually more like dust devils, the video (2:41) of this recent pyroclastic flow in Indonesia is very interesting. It looks like there is some serious convection going on as the material flows down the slope. Here is the video and article from the Huffington Post. Thanks to Rick Dees for sharing!

For more about this eruption, which happened on February 1 and killed 14 people, CLICK HERE.

Here is a NASA satellite image of one of the pyroclasitc flows after it settled on the slope of the volcano: photo

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Amazing Real-Time Interactive Wind, Temperature, Currents Animation is my new favorite website. Once the site opens up, click on the word "earth" in the lower left - and try the different options. Change the height to "250" (250 hectopascals is equivalent to an altitude of about 6 miles) to see the jet streams, or change the overlay to "temp" to see where the warm and cold air are. Once you've made your selection, click on "earth" again to close the menu. There are many more features (ocean currents, etc.), and you can use your mouse to change your view of the Earth.

If you liked that, check this site out:

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.