Humans have always had a unique relationship with fire. Now, like many other changes that are occurring on our planet, fire is taking on new meanings. Across North America and Europe, and from the Amazon to the Arctic, wildfires have been erupting with unprecedented sizes and intensities. There is a name for this new age: the Pyrocene.
Iceland is a fabulous showcase for volcanoes. The easily accessible locations to view explosions of fiery lava and ash provide unusual opportunities for volcano-appreciators of all types, giving them ringside seats for the action. In the past few decades, there have been several spectacular volcanic performances. Attempting to control volcanoes is a major challenge, although people have tried, and even achieved success.
Granitic rocks form the backdrop of iconic landscapes worldwide – from the narrow ridge of Machu Picchu to the massive walls of Yosemite Valley. In southern Idaho, City of Rocks National Reserve contains a “sculpture garden” of granitic rock outcrops with a different appearance from most other granites. They are a result of unusual geologic processes – an interesting story.
Five great earthquakes of M9 or larger have been recorded in the past century and each was followed by a major tsunami, along with vast devastation and many deaths. These events have provided information to help mitigate the effects of future great earthquakes - including what to keep in the back of your mind if you experience strong earthquake shaking in coastal areas worldwide.
When an M8.2 earthquake struck offshore of the Alaska Peninsula on July 28, the eerie sound of sirens warning of a possible tsunami sent people along the coast scrambling for higher ground. Authorities lifted the warning within a few hours, and damage from ground shaking was limited. Viewed from a broad perspective, this event was only a minor distraction, but many earthquakes that are this powerful result in major disasters.
The shiny volcanic glass obsidian comes in many interesting forms – and has a long and rich history. From varied shapes and a range of colors to chemistry that allows obsidian to be traced back to the originating volcano, plus the wealth of artifacts that people have produced for tens of thousands of years, there are many fascinating facts about obsidian.
Obsidian, smooth and shiny black volcanic glass, has fascinated humans for tens of thousands of years. Researchers believe that humans have a natural reaction to shininess that is tied to an innate need–specifically, water. The Eastern Sierra Nevada is a fabulous place to see dark obsidian, especially in areas where it is swirled and folded together with frothy pale gray pumice..
What will define the beginning of the Anthropocene—the proposed subdivision of geologic time marking the onset of significant human impact on our planet’s geology and ecosystems? One possibility is a new material that scientists have named "plastiglomerate".
Colorful rocks extend across wide swaths of the Southwest, showcased in sedimentary rock formations in Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and other national and state parks. There is an interesting story behind the spectacular bedrock “palette” of rich shades of pink and red, purple and creamy white, and yellow and green tones.
Iron-oxide concretions – curious-looking dark spheres – can be found by the hundreds of thousands in the dramatic red and white outcrops of Navajo Sandstone in Utah. The concretions typically consist of a sandstone core surrounded by a thick iron-rich rind, and they have an interesting geologic history and Native American cultural history. They also resemble Martian spherules or "blueberries", and may share similar origins.