The deep and steep-walled Rio Grande gorge in northern New Mexico is remarkable. This large gash is developing because the Earth’s crust is pulling apart, creating a linear depression, or rift, that provides a convenient location for a large river to develop. On a recent trip I admired the river -- and desert bighorn sheep.
Volcano-watchers have had lots of excitement lately with the ongoing eruptions on the Reykjavik Peninsula in Iceland and Soufriere, on the West Indies island of Saint Vincent. So far both eruptions are fairly small. Colorful graphic representations of the relative sizes of volcanic eruptions are intriguing, although variability in natural events confounds human attempts to assign neat boxes or bubbles to these phenomena.
The ghosts of famous artists–and of several hundred dinosaurs who perished in disastrous floods–could be roaming the landscape of Ghost Ranch in north-central New Mexico. This high desert region with steep cliffs and colorful rocks has a long and rich history. Finally visiting Ghost Ranch during a recent road trip, I was captivated by the beauty and the history of the place.
California encompasses tremendous diversity, and this includes rocks of virtually every age, reflecting a long and dynamic geologic history. I'm fond of all types of rock, but my favorites are shales, sandstones and limestones that preserve evidence of ancient plant and animal life. The older the fossils, the more interesting.
Traveling to explore new landscapes–and returning to favorite ones–will be one of many joys gradually reopening to us after the months of just-stay-at-home guidelines. This winter I’ve been planning future road trips in California and beyond, and I can recommend some great books about the geology in the western states.
Watching a volcano erupt is exciting–and people all around the world now have opportunities to see these dramatic performances! The new volcano on the Reykjavik Peninsula in Iceland is getting lots of attention, as is Mount Etna in Sicily. Also, the eruption that began at Kilauea on December 20, 2020 is continuing and the lava lake is deepening.
The Andes Mountains influence the modern world in many ways, and recognizing these is a fascinating aspect of my journey in writing about this region. One connection that might be a surprise: St Patrick’s Day celebrations–and potatoes. Potatoes have had profound effects on human societies that are matched by few other plants.
We recognize an extremely long and rich tradition of fiber arts from the Andes Mountains -- possibly the longest continuous history of fiber use found on earth. From exquisite embroidered shrouds used to wrap mummies many thousands of years ago, to the finely woven tapestry tunics worn by Inca royalty, the artistry of these textiles is exceptional.
Meeting increased demand for lithium has a dark side of potentially damaging the environment and public health – but fortunately there is also a lighter side. Recycling can reclaim valuable metals including lithium from the battery packs that might otherwise end up in landfills. Together, recovery from other industrial operations and recycling could eventually reduce the need to wrestle new metal supplies out of the ground.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are the wave of the future. Improvements in lithium-ion battery packs are occurring rapidly and prices are falling. Obtaining sufficient lithium to meet the growth ahead for EV has a dark side, involving open-pit mining and brine evaporation pools that can be devastating for the environment. Fortunately, there is also a lighter side that is gaining momentum.