Want to see what a hurricane looks like on a seismometer?

October 29, 2012 in Post

Hurricane Sandy is currently making my house shake, so I thought I’d share what it’s doing to our seismometer in northeast PA.

That extreme background noise is NOT the wind.  It’s the storm waves crashing on the beach 100 miles away and traveling through the ground.  For comparison, here’s what a normal day with low background noise looks like.

Stay safe, everybody.

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One more picture of San Cristobal

September 10, 2012 in Fieldwork

Yesterday, I posted some pictures of San Cristobal taken during fieldwork in Nicaragua and I just found one more.  It was taken from Cerro Negro and shows 5 volcanoes, both dormant and active, in a straight line.  Most importantly, it shows San Cristobal (the volcano of the hour) 2nd from the back.

View to the Northwest from Cerro Negro. From the back: El Chonco, San Cristobal, Telica (smoking), Rota.

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Volcan San Cristobal Before the Eruption

September 9, 2012 in Fieldwork

As most of you have heard by now, Nicaragua’s Volcan San Cristobal has erupted, which is not unusual as the volcano has been active for hundreds of years.  This is of course a subduction zone and San Cristobal is simply one of many volcanoes along this margin.  Most of my research has focused on northwest Nicaragua, so I know the area fairly well.  My main interest in San Cristobal was using argon dating to figure out how old it is, which turned out to be quite difficult.  Being an active volcano, the area has been subjected to many thousands of years worth of hydrothermal alteration, which makes it difficult to generate quality data.  My oldest argon age for San Cristobal was 160,000 years (see Carr et al. 2007 from my “about” page).

Given the sudden interest in one of my favorite volcanoes, I thought I’d share a few of my pictures taken during my fieldwork.  Enjoy.

This is about as close as you can get without being in the danger zone.

View of San Cristobal aligned with the smaller and not active El Chonco (meaning "the stump"). Taken from a bridge outside Chinandega.

The active San Cristobal at left. Picture taken from Volcan Telica.

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Why professors are uncool

August 22, 2012 in Fieldwork

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Mente et Malleo

August 13, 2012 in Fieldwork

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How the heck did I miss this hunk of pyrite in my floor?

May 31, 2012 in Fieldwork

I’ve been a geologist for years and a rock collector my whole life.  Nevertheless, I somehow managed to overlook this pyrite concretion in the slate patio at my grandparents house.  I must have stepped on this spot about a million times.  I need to start paying more attention.

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Who wants volcanic bombs from Italy? You do, of course.

March 9, 2012 in Fieldwork

One of the most interesting things about of having a blog is receiving e-mail from distant corners of the globe.  Sometimes, they bear gifts.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by an Italian volcanic bomb enthusiast who wanted to send me volcanic bombs from Etna in exchange for bombs I collected elsewhere.  Sort of a volcanic bomb pen pal situation.  It was an unusual request, but how do you say no to that?

After some e-mailing back and forth, being careful to always type “volcanic” in front of the word “bomb”, I packaged up some samples from Cerro Chopo in Costa Rica and Cerro Negro in Nicaragua and sent them off to Italy (they’re still en route).  In exchange, I received a package that made my day, week, and probably month.



Aerodynamic volcanic bomb from 1646 eruption.

Another VERY aerodynamic bomb suggesting that it flew through the air while still molten.

Probably part of a Strombolian eruption, with lots of "spatter".

So, on an otherwise normal Tuesday, I received a package from Italy containing these spectacular samples (and about a dozen others) wrapped in Italian newspaper from my new volcano friend across the Atlantic.  Needless to say, all other Tuesdays will be a big letdown.

More importantly, he seemed to be eager to find other volcanologists willing to participate in his international volcanic bomb exchange.  If you’re interested and have something good to send him, let me know and I can put you in touch.  Remember that he’s ONLY interested in volcanic bombs, not other volcanic material.  You gotta love that kind of dedication.

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Want to help design the next Estwing hammer?

March 6, 2012 in Opinion

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about Estwing hammers and the geologists who love them, which inspired some commentators to reminisce about their first Estwing.  Last week I was contacted by an Estwing employee who appreciated these sentiments and wanted to know if I had any suggestions for new products or ways of improving existing ones.

Did I ever.

Ever since I’ve been a geologist, I’ve been breaking sledgehammers.  A few years ago in Nicaragua, our field day ended abruptly when an unnamed colleague of mine broke our second and final sledgehammer.  I’ve long dreamed of a large sledgehammer with a metal handle designed not to “ring”, which would cause some serious pain after a few days of work.  I suggested this to my new friend at Estwing and he actually brought it to the engineers there.  Alas, they were concerned about the added weight of the handle and nixed it, but the point is that they listened and want to hear more.

This Estwing employee also asked me if I had any other ideas, so I thought I’d harness the power of the entire Estwing-loving universe out there.

Do you have any ideas for new Estwing products or ways to improve existing ones?

Let’s get creative here.  How bout a hammer that has a rock pick on one side and a chisel point on the other?  Do you want bigger hammers?  Smaller hammers?  Other geo-tools?  Leave your ideas in the comments and I’ll send the link to the folks at Estwing.  They may not go for your idea, but you never know.

And if you want to give a shout out for my full-sized-metal-handled sledge, I’d appreciate it.

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MORE helicoptering over Iceland!

February 27, 2012 in Fieldwork

I got such a great response from my earlier post of photos taken from a helicopter in Iceland, that I decided to go for round 2 (I certainly have enough left).  Enjoy.

I was so excited, I took about 25 pictures, before we left the ground.

Reykjavik neighborhood featureing the very common white buildings with colored roofs.

I can't get over the color of that water.

Pretty sure that's a normal fault scarp.

This is most likely a piece of a failed rift that has been weathered. The extension looks too old to be active.

Those white dots in the upper left are gigantic hay bales wrapped in plastic.

That water is cold, but oh so inviting.

I just love this photo. I've always felt that nothing ruins a great photo like scale. The geologist is fighting the artist.

Meandering river makes me wish I had a kayak. Next time...

Our pilot, Snurrin, who is absolutely positively and in all other ways, The Man.

Now that's a good camera. Way to stop a helicopter rotar in its tracks.

A great example of disequilibrium in response to base level change. That river never saw it coming and is not happy. Also a great way to spot active rifting. The white dots to the right are HUGE bags of rocks that look like they were helicoptered in. Why? Beats me.

Reverse angle from previous photo.

Reykjavik's famed Church of Hallgrimur under construction with some major league scafolding.

Perlan (The Pearl), one of Reykjavik's most recognizable landmarks. Five large hot water tanks, restaurant, shops, and museum. Very strange.

That’s all for now.

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A Heart of Stone for Valentine’s Day and a spectacular mantle xenolith

February 14, 2012 in Fieldwork

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Xenolith from Cerro Mercedes, Costa Rica. Photo by Fara Lindsay.

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