Towering cliffs, plateaus, arches, and narrow canyons are iconic symbols of southern Utah’s Red Rock Country. Another type of landform captured my attention during recent explorations: mile after mile of gently rolling rock-covered terrain, giving the impression of being surrounded by an ocean of sandstone. An arid sand sea of shifting dunes created these rocks many millions of years ago.
The volcano recently erupting in Africa–Mount Nyiragongo–is one of the most active on our planet. Eruptions in 1977, 2002 and now beginning in May 2021, have resulted in a significant number of fatalities and extensive damage in the nearby and densely populated city of Goma. If scientists were calling the shots, they would relocate Goma and designate the region beneath this active volcano as a national park.
California and other Western US states are facing another major drought, with a snowpack that is approximately 50% of normal throughout the region. The wildfire season is already underway also, stoking fears of fire in treasured places, among them majestic Yosemite Valley.
Deep in equatorial Africa, a high mountain range known as the Mountains of the Moon played a prominent role for centuries in myths about the source of the Nile River. An absorbing history of these mountains is published in a blog post in Volcano Café. As Albert, who wrote the post, states “They are mountains without a cause.”
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.
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.
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.