As an Earth Science teacher, I felt like a kid in a candy store during this hike. Chief Mountain the classic example of a "klippe" (associated with the overthrust that formed Glacier Park), plus we had great views of a landslide that happened in 1992, Slide Lake, and a weird vegetation pattern (shown in photo above; not sure how it formed). CLICK HERE to access the blog, which includes a photo tour of all that we saw.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Logan Pass (elevation 6,646 feet) on the Continental Divide is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Although there are higher areas in the south-central part of the state, Logan Pass gets more precipitation than any place in Montana. Mountains along the divide force moist air from the Pacific upward, causing cooling by expansion. As the air reaches its dew point, vapor changes to snow (or rain). Also, Arctic air often moves into Montana along the east side of the divide, contributing to the lifting and cooling of Pacific air from the west. An area just east of Logan Pass, called “The Big Drift”, often records over 80 feet of snow, much of it pushed there by strong westerly winds that blow in the winter. A record gust of 139 mph was recorded in April of 2014.
The Going to the Sun Road, which can be seen in the photo, is one of the most scenic drives in the USA, and also one of the most difficult to snowplow. Crews usually begin plowing in early April, and the road is usually open from early June to mid-October, with the latest opening date being July 13, 2011 due to tremendous amounts of snow that fell that winter. The road, which was completed in 1932 and opened in 1933, connects the east entrance of the park (St. Mary) with the west entrance (near Lake McDonald). Although there aren’t many glaciers left in the park, the road provides visitors with excellent views of features carved by glaciers, including, hanging valleys, horns, glacial troughs, arêtes, and cirques. For those who want a closer look, there are several hiking trailheads along the highway, including the spectacular "Highline Trail" that starts at Logan Pass. The trail passes above the highway and below a portion of the Continental Divide known as “The Garden Wall.” The Highline Trail can be seen on the left side of the photo - between the highway and the patches of snow.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
CLICK HERE to find out what it will look like from various locations. You can zoom, tilt the globe, or select a new location. THIS IS GREAT! It shows what it will look like from your location, including the timing. *See credits below.
Producer: Kevin Hussey
Ranger Task Manager: Marc Pomerantz
Software Engineering Team Lead: Andrew Boettcher
JPL Ranger Software Engineering team: Andrew Boettcher, Michael Hans, Anton Kulikov, Mi Nguyen, Marc Pomerantz, Michael Sandoval, Davit Stepanyan, Brian Wright
Additional JPL support: Jason Craig, Matthew Garcia, Kevin Hussey, Daniel Sedlacko
UI Design and Development: Moore Boeck
Copyright 2017, by the California Institute of Technology. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. United States Government Sponsorship acknowledged. Any commercial use must be negotiated with the Office of Technology Transfer at the California Institute of Technology.
Friday, June 2, 2017
Lots of geology going on here. Two of my hiking buddies are standing on the remains of a laccolith looking at Lost Lake whose basin was carved by outburst floods during the last ice age. The mountains in the background (Highwoods) are the remains of an ancient volcano that was active 50 mya.
After visiting Lost Lake we hiked up onto Square Butte (another laccolith). Both features are made of rock formed as magma cooled beneath the surface tens of millions of years ago. However, the story of Lost Lake includes another chapter that involved an unusual set of circumstances that happened during the last ice age. To learn how outburst flooding of Glacial Lake Great Falls was involved, go to bigskywalker.com.
Friday, May 19, 2017
1. Is there a "rock cycle" on Mars?
2. How is it different from the rock cycle on Earth? What processes are missing?
3. Is there molten rock on Mars?
4. Are there metamorphic rocks on Mars?
5. What drives the rock cycle on Earth?
Sunday, May 14, 2017
The lab comes in a kit we purchase from WARD'S Natural Science, which includes this 2-part activity plus another activity related to ocean currents. The kit is called "Exploring Convection." To make the blue ice cubes, add 3 drops of food coloring to each empty cube mold in an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze.
CLICK HERE to see a video of "Part I".
CLICK HERE to see a video of the other lab included in the kit (related to ocean currents).
Friday, April 21, 2017
Friday, March 31, 2017
Click on the image to see a larger view.
This photo, taken on Snake Butte in north-central Montana, shows scratches that were made as the Laurentide Ice Sheet (continental glacier) flowed across here during the last ice age. Rocks that were stuck to the bottom of the ice caused the gouges - called "striations." Snake Butte is about 10 miles south of Harlem, MT on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation. The Little Rockies can be seen in the distance.
Striations help determine which direction the glacier flowed as it grew across the land, and also help locate "spreading centers" where the ice grew FROM, before merging to form the single continental glacier that covered Canada. Striations found in various parts of Canada reveal that there were three places in northern Canada where snowfall accumulations contributed to the ice sheet that eventually reached the USA (Of course there was no USA at that time!). These striations on Snake Butte prove the glacier flowed toward the southeast as it moved over the butte - probably because the Bears Paw Mountains (several miles southwest of here) forced the ice in that direction.
Below: The black dashed line indicates how far south the ice advanced into Montana when the ice age peaked about 18,000 years ago.
1. Erratics – Metamorphic rocks from the Hudson Bay area can be found on Snake Butte (and throughout northern Montana). These rocks, which were embedded in the ice, were dropped here when the ice melted.
2. The Snake Butte Boulder Train – Large pieces of Snake Butte (igneous rock) have been scattered in a straight line extending to the southeast of Snake Butte. As the glacier flowed across the butte, pieces of the butte were carried away, and eventually dropped as the ice melted. Although they are few and far between, the line extends for almost 50 miles. The direction of the boulder train matches the direction indicated by the striations.
For much more about Snake Butte, CLICK HERE (link does not open on many mobile devices).
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Below: Here are a couple more photos of concretions along the White Cliffs of the Missouri. This 47-mile stretch is one of the premier canoe/kayak trips in the USA. CLICK HERE for an account of the 3-day journey (lots of photos). Here is another link to more information about concretions, including a short video (does not open on many mobile devices).
Sunday, March 19, 2017
These are fossils of stromatolites that can be seen along one of the most popular trails in Glacier Park. CLICK HERE to see more photos taken along the Highline Trail.
Glacier Park is made almost entirely of rocks from the Belt Formation (aka "The Belt Supergroup") - layer upon layer of sandstones, shales, and carbonates from the late Precambrian Era. At that time there were no organisms with bones or shells, so stromatolites like those shown in the photo, are the only fossils that can be found in Glacier Park.
Stromatolites are mound-like, multi-layered colonies of algae (blue-green algae; aka cyanobacteria), and their formation has much to do with the way they change the chemistry of the shallow water they live in. The photosynthetic cyanobacteria remove carbon dioxide from the surrounding water, causing calcium carbonate to precipitate onto their slimy, mat-like colonies. Calcium carbonate, along with grains of sediment (silt, etc.), stick to the bio-film layer that covers the colonies. As the cyanobacteria continue to grow up through the sediment, a new layer forms. This process occurs over and over again, creating layered mounds, columns, or sheets.
Fossils of different species of stromatolites can be found in different areas of the park. Stromatolites that lived in the Precambrian played a major role in increasing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere of the primeval Earth ("The Great Oxygenation Event"). Living stromatolites can be found today at Shark Bay in western Australia.
Check out my Montana Hiking Blog - lots of geology!
Source: T.N. & E.L. Taylor. 1993. The Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
The photo was taken below the crater on the north slope of the volcano. Loowit Creek originates from melting snow and ice in the crater. Much of the water comes from Crater Glacier, which has formed and grown around the lava domes over the past several decades. Loowit Creek has cut down through the volcano, exposing the alternating layers that give composite volcanoes their name. Also known as stratovolcanoes, volcanoes like St. Helens consist of alternating layers of explosively erupted pyroclastics (ash, cinders, etc.) and lava flows.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
The front of what?Ear Mountain stands along the boundary between the mountains and the prairie 70 miles northwest of Great Falls (map); an area Montanans refer to as “The Front”. The name probably originates from the view enjoyed by those approaching from the east - That of a long wall marking the abrupt end of the great plains and the beginning of (front of) the mountains. The area, which extends northward to Glacier Park and beyond is known for its scenic beauty, grizzly bears, Chinook winds, and fascinating geology.
Sea creatures in Montana?
Ear Mountain along with many of its neighboring ridges, peaks, and cliffs consist of the Madison formation; layers of limestone and other carbonates, ranging from 275-520 meters thick, and made of sediment laid down 330-340 mya when much of the western USA was the floor of a shallow, tropical ocean (map). The Madison forms many of the state’s most iconic landforms, including the Gates of the Mountains, Mission Canyon, the Lewis and Clark Caverns, and the Bighorn Canyon. The Grand Canyon’s “Redwall limestone” and the limestone that surrounds the Black Hills of South Dakota are equivalent strata. In places the Madison is especially fossiliferous. Those adventurous enough to climb Ear Mountain will be treated to an abundance of horn coral, as they walk the perimeter of the plateau.
Not your ordinary faults.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect the Ear Mountain and the surrounding region is the way the Madison formation and other layers were deformed as these mountains were built. In response to the collision of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate 115-50 mya, immense slabs of rock broke, and then slid up and over younger layers to their west. Mountains formed by this over-thrust faulting extend from Helena northward through Glacier Park into Alberta (called the Lewis Thrust Belt). Although this provided some of the most scenic mountains in the state, the orientation of the slabs in the 60-mile stretch between Augusta and Heart Butte (map) is especially unique. In this area thinner slabs of rock slid eastward over younger rock layers like shingles on a roof to form distinct high ridges and deep valleys that run parallel to each other as shown in this photo.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
One of the keys to understanding ocean currents, and the "ocean conveyor belt" is realizing how temperature and salinity affect the density of water - referred to as thermohaline circulation. As water gets colder and/or saltier, it tends to sink (density current). The lab-activity shown in the video is one of our favorites at Helena High School. We call it "The Briny Deep". Students start with 800 ml of room temperature water in the tilted box, then mix various types of water (salty, cold, hot), make predictions, and then pour.
Credit for the demo goes to WARD's Science. The activity shown in the video is part of a kit that we purchased from WARD's, called "Exploring Convection". The kit also includes a second lab-activity that helps students understand the role convection plays in causing wind. Both labs come with great handouts that guide students through the activities and then follow up with questions that help them understand real-world applications.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Other Eclipse Resources
1. Watch this 2.5 minute video to see how he created the animation shown in the video above.
2. Below is another 48-second video from Ernie, showing what the eclipse will look like from the Moon.
Thanks to Rick Dees (Huntley-Project High School) for showing me these resources!
Interested in hiking? Check out my Montana hiking blog at bigskywalker.com.