Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rare quake hits Pinacates volcanic field

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake is reported at the south end of the Pinacates volcanic field in Sonora, about 60 miles south of Ajo, Arizona.  The quake hit the area at 2:14 a.m. local time on Tues, March 30.  [marked with the 'A' at left center]

The USGS maps of the area show no historical seismicity in the area.   

There are Indian legends of historical eruptions and at least two questionable reports of possible explosive activity in the early 20th century.  The field has 400 volcanic cones and other features documenting an eruption history extending over the past few million years.  

Yesterday's quake has a horizontal accuracy of about 26 kms so we can't be too certain that it actually occurred within the volcanic field.   

Scientists losing debate over climate

Film-maker and former scientist Randy Olson [right, sitting on stage after today's talk]  laid out four things that have led to a sharp drop in concern about climate change and an increase in denials:
1. the Al Gore move "An Inconvenient Truth" ineffectively hyped an imminent apocalypse
2. we have not experienced more hurricanes like Katrina and summers have not been that hot lately
3. the economic downturn, and
4. public distrust of scientists resulting from "Climategate", the stolen emails from climate scientists.

Randy spoke at the Arizona State History Museum next to UA to a standing-room only crowd as part of Earth Week.

He spoke extensively about the reasons the Academy Award winning movie with Al Gore did not really improve awareness or create a sense of urgency among its viewers, then laid out the four elements of successful communications about science that he talks about in his popular book, "Don't Be Such A Scientist."

He's also speaking tonight following the Tucson premiere of his latest movie, "Sizzle, A Global Warming Comedy" at the Loft Cinema.   We tried to get in but it was completely sold out and they were turning away scores of people.

Get ready for the great Arizona tungsten rush

Forget gold.  The next big thing is going to be the rush to mine tungsten in Arizona.  In order to make incandescent light bulbs that can only be sold in Arizona.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Development passed HB 2337, which will keep the standard incandescent light bulb on the shelves in Arizona after federal energy standards imposed by former Pres. George W. Bush take effect in 2014, that will effectively ban the current bulb as too inefficient.

The Arizona legislation is attracting lots of attention across the state and around the country as a symbolic battle of federal authority vs states rights.

The bill sponsor, Sen. Frank Antenori argues that if all the basic components of the light bulb are produced in Arizona, it is not subject to interstate commerce restrictions.   The bulb however, could not be sold in other states.

One critical component to the incandescent bulb is tungsten for the filament.  The only tungsten produced in the U.S. comes from California.   Mr. Antenori is quoted as realizing there is no Arizona production but he correctly notes there are deposits here.    For instance there are three well known veins of scheelite (CaWO4) in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona.   There has been some minor excavations of these deposits but nothing in the past few decades.  [right, tungsten filament from an incandescent bulb. Credit, Wikipedia]

All you need to do is spend 5 - 10 years getting the permits needed to resume mining, build a processing plant, and construct a manufacturing facility to make tungsten filaments.   Then, assuming that Westinghouse, or GE, or the Chinese are enticed into building a light bulb factory in Arizona to sell energy inefficient bulbs to the locals only, your fortune is set.   

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Legislation on Prescott's importation of Big Chino groundwater

Arizona Senate Bill 1445 introduced last week "Modifies the conditions that a city or town in the Prescott Active Management Area must follow in order to import groundwater from the Big Chino Sub-Basin."  The bill passed out of committee yesterday on a vote of 6-0, with one abstention.  [right, Big Chino water ranch.  Credit, City of Prescott]

The analysts review of the bill posted on describes the provisions this way:

Prescott AMA and the Big Chino

1.      Modifies the conditions that must be met in order to transfer water from the Big Chino. In order for a city or town in the Prescott AMA to import water both of the following conditions must be met:
a)  the city or town must relinquish its CAP allocation; and
b) the city or town must be party to a federally-approved Indian water rights settlement agreement with a tribe in the Prescott AMA.

2.      Establishes the amount of groundwater that may be withdrawn and transported from the Big Chino to the Prescott AMA at 8,068 AFY.  Current law authorizes the withdrawal of up to 14,000 AFY from the Big Chino for cities and towns and Indian user settlements for two specified tribes in the AMA.

3.      Provides an exception from the 8,068 AFY amount if the city or town delivers  more than 231 AFY to a tribe in the Prescott AMA with a federally approved water settlement agreement.  The additional amount is limited to the amount that exceeds 231AFY. 

4.      Specifies that imported groundwater may be delivered to and used by a city, town or Indian tribe in the AMA, regardless of which entity withdraws and transports the water. 

5.      States the imported groundwater is legally available for the purpose of meeting assured water supply requirements.

6.      Specifies that a city or town in the Prescott AMA that imports groundwater from the Big Chino is not subject to well spacing requirements. Currently, a well constructed after September 21,1991 cannot be used to withdraw groundwater that is transported to an AMA, unless it is approved by the ADWR Director based on a determination that it will not unreasonably increase damage to the surrounding land or other water users.

Groundwater Transportation Between Sub-Basins

7.      Allows groundwater that is imported from specific basins, located outside an AMA, to be moved across sub-basin boundaries within an AMA without payment of damages. Currently, groundwater can be transported within the sub-basins of the same AMA without payment of damages.  

Can we use Yucca Mountain as a geologic laboratory?

The President's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future met a few days for the first time with a objective to consider "all alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense used nuclear fuel, high-level waste, and materials derived from nuclear activities," in the aftermath of the decision not to develop Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste facility.

But that leaves the nation with a $10 billion underground facility that is probably the most well characterized and analyzed volume of earth the planet.

Are we going to walk away from this tremendous investment, or can we convert the extensive tunnels and facilities into a world-class underground laboratory?   

NSF has invested money into South Dakota's Homestake gold mine to convert it into a Deep Underground Science & Engineering Lab (DUSEL) for physics, biology, geoscience studies.    Couldn't we take similar advantage of a site that is designed for long term monitoring of environmental factors?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Free download of National Geographic special water issue

National Geographic is offering a free download of it's special April issue dedicated to "Water: Our Thirsty World" in recognition of World Water Day, March 22.  The download is available through April 2.

Climate's Influence on Human Evolution


UA geoscience professor Andy Cohen is a co-author of a recent National Academy study that is drawing lots of scientific and public attention.    "Understanding Climate's Influence on Human Evolution" that concludes "Climate and fossil records suggest that some events in human evolution -- such as the evolution of new species or migration out of Africa -- coincided with substantial changes in African and Eurasian climate. This raises the intriguing possibility that environmental factors affected or controlled our species' evolution."

Andy was interviewed on NPR last week and will be on a public panel discussion in Washington DC next Wednesday [right].

Earth fissures in southern Utah

The Utah Geological Survey is investigating new earth fissures in the town of Enoch near Cedar City, for a report due out in June.    The Iron County Today newspaper describes one that is 2-1/4 miles long and offers an interview with UGS project geologist Bill Lund.

The UGS has previously published reports on fissures and subsidence in the Escalante Desert region of southwestern Utah.  [right, Beryl Junction earth fissure.  Credit, UGS]

Friday, March 26, 2010

EPA's library for science assessments

The EPA has set up an online data repository of 300,000 scientific studies they used to help decide what and how to regulate.   The Health & Environmental Research Online (HERO) database "contains the key studies EPA uses to develop environmental risk assessments for the public."

I typed 'uranium' into the search engine for the Science Inventory and came up with 162 items, including URANIUM MINE LOCATION DATABASE and ENERGY FROM THE WEST: ENERGY RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT SYSTEMS REPORT. VOLUME IV: URANIUM

NSF and AAPG partner to increase funding for Earth science research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a partnership with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) to increase funding in the earth sciences over the next five years. [right, NSF Geosciences Director Tim Killeen and AAPG Executive Director Rick Fritz.  Credit NSF]
The agreement is the first NSF-energy industry collaboration of its kind.  The goal is to substantially improve research for:
  • better hazard prediction and mitigation;
  • understanding the geologic setting of natural resources, such as groundwater, minerals and energy;
  • knowledge of deep-time climates and their relevance to modern climate issues;
  • restoration of rivers, deltas, coasts and farmlands affected by human activities;
  • understanding the four-billion-year history of life on Earth;
  • increased science capabilities and competence of U. S. students and universities;
  • responding to needs and challenges in the earth sciences identified by government, industry and academia.
 Taken in part from the NSF and AAPG announcements.

"Don't Be Such a Scientist" author to headline EarthWeek at UA

Film-maker and author Randy Olson will speak at UA on March 31 on his popular book, "Don't Be Such a Scientist" as part of EarthWeek celebrations.

As part of EarthWeek, Olson's movie, "Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy," will be shown at The Loft Cinema at 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. on Wednesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. Writer-director Randy Olson will do a Q&A with the audience following the screening. He will be joined by UA professors Julia Cole of geosciences, Diana Liverman of the Institute of the Environment, Brian McGill of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and Jacqueline Sharkey of the School of Journalism. An admission fee will be charged for the film

Rockfall video on State Hwy 264 from January

ADOT's published a short video of a rockfall occurring on State Highway 264 that occurred in early January.    The road had been blocked by an earlier slide and crews spotted an unstable block in the 50-75 ft high cliff.

Altogether they removed about 1,000 tons of rock along a 300 foot section.

To view the video clip, you have to go to page 11 in ADOT's Transend magazine for Feb. 2010 and click

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

EPA rule on geologic sequestration and EOR use of CO2

We got notice from EPA today that they signed "a proposed rule for the mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from facilities that inject carbon dioxide underground for the purposes of geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery. Geologic sequestration (GS) is the long-term containment of carbon dioxide in subsurface geologic formations."

This proposal would amend the Mandatory Reporting of GHGs Rule that was promulgated on October 30, 2009 (74 FR 56260) by adding reporting requirements for this source category. The public comment period for this proposed rulemaking will be open for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. In addition, a public hearing on this proposal will be held on April 19, 2010, in Arlington, VA. 

This proposal is complementary to and builds on EPA's proposed rule for Federal Requirements under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program for Carbon Dioxide Geologic Sequestration Wells.

Updated subsidence maps released for Arizona basins

Subsidence maps for key groundwater basins have been updated with the most recent InSAR data and posted on the ADWR website.    [right, NE Phoenix - Scottsdale area subsidence, 2004-2010.  Credit, ADWR]

Thanks to Brian Conway at ADWR for passing along the news.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Utilities called 'contested territory' in cyber attacks

 There's a very troubling piece in the current issue of EnergyBiz magazine, titled "Utilities are Contested Territories."

Author Alan Paller says that the CEOs of major utilities are being briefed by the FBI that they need to treat their networks and systems as if they are 'contested territory.'

The problem he says is that cyber attackers have penetrated the utilities and set up deeply buried connections to outside controllers.   He goes on to describe how the attacks are the same as those orchestrated against the defense industries and governments.   Cyber security has become an 'arms race.'  And the utilities are rushing to shore up their defences.

One can only imagine the chaos if an enemy could take control of even small parts of the nation's power system.

Modest declines in Black Mesa N-aquifer

 A new USGS report on water in the N-aquifer from the Black Mesa area of northeastern Arizona shows groundwater declines of 0.1 to 0.2 feet from 2008 to 2009.  Total water withdrawals were 4,110 acre-feet, a decrease of 44% from 2005.

Macy, J.P., 2010, Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona, 2008-2009: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1038, 43 p.

Colorado River eddy-deposited sandbars from high-flow experiment

The USGS has released three publications in recent days, on the results of the 2008 high-flow experiment at Glen Canyon dam,    The latest one looks at the temporary sandbars and related features created along the Colorado River.  Another looked at the impacts on rainbow trout and a third examined impacts on macroinvertebrates.

The study focused on habitat created by the sandbars and backwater areas, concluding that "steady flows are associated with a greater amount of continuously available backwater habitat than fluctuating flows, which result in a greater amount of intermittently available habitat."

Grams, P.E., Schmidt, J.C., and Andersen, M.E., 2010, 2008 high-flow experiment at Glen Canyon Dam; morphologic response of eddy-deposited sandbars and associated aquatic backwater habitats along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1032, 73 p.

'Tunguska' edges out 'Wooliam' for baby mammoth name

The name chosen for the 1-year old Siberian mammoth reproduction housed at the AZGS is "Tunguska", chosen by our judges from over 500 entries submitted at last weekends Festival of Books at UA.  The second place choice was "Wooliam."

The life-size Tunguska is covered with a thick coat of yak fur from the Altai region of Asia, giving it a feel as close to a real mammoth as you can get.   That made it a hit not only with the kids but most adults as well.   Everyone wanted to pet and sometimes hug, Tunguska.

Check out the AZGS web page for the list of runner-ups.   [right, volunteer Anne Conway describes Tunguska to visitors at the AZGS booth at the Book Festival]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NASA releases 100,000 lunar images from ASU camera

NASA released the first 6 months worth of images from the ASU-run Lunar Orbiter Reconnaissance Camera (LROC) yesterday, totaling nearly 50 terabytes of data.  The data went to the Planetary Data System (PDS).

"LROC acquires high-resolution images of the lunar surface from any spot on the surface with resolutions down to 50-cm meter while LRO orbits at a speed of 3,600 mph (5,800 km/hr). The imaging system consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution images, a Wide Angle Camera (WAC) to provide images in seven color bands over a 60-km swath, and a Sequence and Compressor System supporting data acquisition for all three cameras. For at least the next seven months, LROC will collect thousands of color, black-and-white and ultraviolet images of the lunar surface, obtaining high-resolution coverage of about seven percent of the Moon’s surface.
Visit the LROC webpage for detailed specifications:"

ASU LROC camera spots Russian lunar lander

 The ASU-run Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera spotted the Soviet's Luna 20 spacecraft on the moon.

From the LROC web site:  On February 21, 1972, Luna 20 soft landed in the rugged highlands between Mare Fecunditatis and Mare Crisium. The next day a sample return capsule blasted off carrying 55 grams of lunar soil. The Luna 20 descent stage still sits silently on the Moon, clearly visible in LROC NAC image M119482862RE [photo credit, NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

'Fragile' Chile power supply may affect copper production

The Chilean government warned that the nation's power supply will be fragile for at least the next six months and more blackouts like that on Sunday night may occur.

Chile's copper mining companies have been offering assurances that their power supplies in the northern part of the country are far from the center of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake, but Mineweb correspondent Dorothy Kosich is warning that "shaky, blackout-prone energy supplies could impact many medium-sized mines in Chile and reinforce world market concerns about supply disruptions in a country that mines one-third of the world's copper."   [right, Candelaria mine. Credit, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold]

That would have big impacts for Arizona which produces 65% of copper used in the U.S.

Maps of the 9th census, 1870

Our census form came in the mail yesterday as did yours I suppose.  So, the timing is right for folks to post maps from the 9th census done in 1870.     Below is the "Constitutional Population" map in which Tucson and Wickenburg are present but there is no sign of Phoenix.  Some of the other maps include all the "Idiots" tabulated by state.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Residential solar booming in Arizona

Despite concerns over anti-renewable energy legislation proposed in the state, the Arizona Solar Power Society ( reports that the residential solar market in Arizona in the past 18 months  "more than 275 residential solar installation companies have opened shop, hired thousands of employees and created one of the most promising industries seen in a decade in Arizona."

The Society reports they have 800 members including "350 companies in their membership that are installing solar electric, solar thermal water heaters and energy efficiency product and services. In addition, there are another 250 members that work in ancillary solar support companies."

Spring dust avalanches on Mars as seen by HiRISE

Last year the UA HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured photos of dust avalanches in Mars' polar regions. So, with springtime coming to the planet, the team posted images of the first avalanche found in a new survey.

HiRISE observation ESP_016228_2650.

Solar power feels under attack in Arizona

The solar power industry flexed its muscle to defeat HB2701 which would have effectively eliminated the renewable energy requirements in Arizona.    But they are now moving to fight what they call an even bigger challenge - Rep. Carl Seele's HB2381, to remove the Arizona Corporation Commission's right to set renewable energy standards.

In a prominent blog post, the Calfinder Solar blog said, "The recent wave of attacks on solar power in Arizona is troubling for a state that has some of the best solar potential in the world.arizona solar power There are states where one could argue that solar power is not the best renewable option, like the windy Dakotas or the geothermal-laden Northwest, but Arizona is practically made of sunshine. Why any group or lawmaker would want to kill solar power in that state is beyond this writer."

Even though the industry hopes to kill this second bill, "the fact that such contention exists in Arizona may scare off potential solar industry additions to the state. Several states are working to attract green tech industries and the market is highly competitive.  

"...industry followers are unlikely to wait around for long while California, Oregon, Michigan, Colorado and other states wait with open arms and less uncertainty."

ACC chair Kris Mayes, is quoted elsewhere as saying,  “For the life of me, I can’t understand why certain legislators want to kill renewable energy.”

PDAC report: long-term demand for potash looks good

At last week's Prospectors and Developers (PDAC) conference in Toronto, a minerals analyst for TD Newcrest predicted potash prices to remain flat this year but should see long term opportunities as global demand increases about 3% per year.   Potash is used primarily as a fertilizer, with China, India, and Brazil using about 50% of global supply.  There has not been a completely new potash mine developed in the world in the last 30 years.

The Holbrook basin deposit described by AZGS in 2008 is continuing to attract attention from international mining firms. 

Meanwhile, the US Interior Dept is doing an appraisal of private lands inside the boundaries of Petrified Forest National Park in anticipation of trying to acquire the lands.  Congress approved the park expansion but never appropriated money to buy the land from its owners.  At least one major ranch has been optioned by a mining firm for $10 million after the land owner gave up waiting for the feds to act.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hearing set on seismic monitoring for illegal activities.

The Arizona legislature's committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety will meet on Wednesday morning to hear SB1027, a measure that will require the Dept. of Public Safety DPS to seek funding for a pilot program of to use seismic sensors to identify illegal immigration and smuggling activities at rural airports.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Frenetic day at the Tucson Festival of Books

We're just back from 12+ hours at the second annual Tucson Festival of Books held on the UA campus.  Organizers told us that overnight this is the 5th largest such event in the country.   And after a wildly busy day, I have to agree.

We were swamped from before the official opening and never slowed until after it closed.    We ran out of many publications and maps, not to mention sales receipts.     More than 250 kids (and a fair number of adults) entered our 'name the baby mammoth' contest to offer suggestions for our life-size one-year old mammoth replica from Siberia.   And we answered untold numbers of questions about Arizona geology - where to prospect for gold, how big an earthquake might we expect, what rivers drain the Prescott region, what career opportunities exist in the geoscience, and on and on.

We start again in the morning.   With a fresh supply of books and maps, and enough name the mammoth forms to get us through the day.  We hope.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

USGS fact sheet on molybdenum

Did you know that 57% of the U.S. molybdenum supply is produced as a byproduct of copper mining?    The USGS has released a new fact sheet on molybdenum - USGS Fact Sheet 2009-3106.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Justice Dept contacting Four Corners victims of radiation exposure

The U.S. Dept. of Justice is recruiting student interns to contact families whose work in the uranium industry during the Cold War exposed them to radiation and entitle them to compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

RECA seeks to compensate individuals who contracted certain cancers or other serious diseases after being exposed to radiation through nuclear weapons tests or work in the uranium mining industry between 1942 and 1971.

The RECA Internship will cover all travel costs as well as room and board for interns and pay a small stipend to cover incidental expenses. While the RECA program will sponsor the internships, a contractor, not the U.S. government, will employ the selected students.

In order to be eligible for the RECA Internship, applicants must be students in good standing. Two Washington, D.C., training sessions will be offered: June 7 to 18, 2010, and July 26 to August 6, 2010. The deadline for applicants for the June training session is April 15, 2010. The deadline for the July training session is May 1, 2010. Applications will be available online at on March 10, 2010, or interested students may contact RECA staff at (202) 616-4304 or to have an application mailed to them.
[taken from the US DOJ press release]

Compressed air storage of renewable energy

One of the problems with solar and wind energy is their intermittancy.  The sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't blow all the time.    But the idea of compressing air and storing it underground for later use to run generators is become more viable.

A review at Wired magazine focuses on compressed air storage for wind energy, but it should be just as viable for solar energy.   Here in Arizona, we have extensive salt basins where salt caverns could be hollowed out to serve as storage vaults for compressed air to be released during peak times or after the sun sets.  [right, Iowa compressed air storage experiment]

Arizona mining exports down 70% in 2009

The U.S. Dept. of Commerce says Arizona exports overall dropped 30% from 2008 to 2009, but mining materials and commodities, including copper, dropped from $1.3 billion to $393 million (Bizjournals), which by my calculation is a drop of 70%.   [photo credit, Freeport McMoRan]

CDOT photos of Glenwood Canyon rockslide

The Colorado Dept. of Transportation is posting photos of last weekend's rockslide on I-70 on TweetPhoto.

This aerial view shows two chutes down the mountain side. Other photos include some of the repair work underway.

The metal in our teeth

I was at my dentist's earlier this week and we got talking about the metals used in dental crowns. He gave me a copy of a certificate for a "High Noble" alloy crown.  It contains 40.3% gold, 39.3% palladium, 9.2% silver, 9.3% indium, 1.8% gallium, and 0.1% rubidium.  These are fused with a porcelain   A pretty impressive collection of metals and a good part of the reason for the cost of dental visits.  [photo credit wikipedia]

Power plant foes call for shutting down Navajo Generating Station

A group of conservationists opposed to coal-fired electricity is calling for shutting down the Navajo Generating Station power plant in Page as a cost saving measure to owner SRP.  The group calls for covering the Central Arizona Project with solar panels instead at a cost of about $8 billion. But according to the SRP spokesman quoted in the Daily Sun, the study ignores the cost of losing nearly 1,000 jobs and eliminating royalties to the Navajo Nation.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Photos and update on Colorado I-70 rockslide

The Colorado Dept. of Transportation is posting updates and great photos of yesterday's rockslide in Glenwood Canyon that damaged and closed I-70.

Crews were scaling the cliff this morning to either pry loose an unstable rock about 20 feet in diameter or determine what other options they have.

[right, CDOT crew breaking up boulder for removal]

Thanks to Nick Priznar at ADOT for forwarding the links.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Form letters dominate comments on BLM scoping report on uranium lands

The BLM released the Scoping Report today for the Environmental Impact Statement process they are carrying out on the proposed withdrawal from mineral entry of nearly 1 million acres of federal lands in Northern Arizona.

"The EIS will analyze at least two alternatives, the “Proposed Action” to withdraw lands from the location of new mining claims and the “No-Action” alternative, which would continue to allow location of new mining claims. Other alternatives may be analyzed as appropriate, including withdrawal of a smaller area."

"A total of 83,525 submittals was collected during public scoping, 1,805 of which were identified as duplicate submittals. Of the 81,720 non-duplicate submittals received, 93.55% (76,452 submittals) were identified as form letters, 5.72% (4,671 submittals) as form letters with additional comments,
0.03% (28 submittals) as public comment forms, and the remainder as original content submitted via email (0.52%, or 428), letter (0.17%, or 139), or fax (<0.01%, or 2)."

So, that comes to over 99% of the comments being form letters and a total of  just under 600 comments containing original comments.  Details of the comments are broken down in the report.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

First million tons removed from Moab tailings pile

The U.S. Dept. of Energy completed removal of the first one million tons of uranium tailings from along the Colorado River near Moab last week, leaving 15 millions to go, according to the Grand Junction Sentinel.  The tailings are hauled 30 miles by train to Crescent Junction near the Book Cliffs in Utah.  The tailings are left over from the Atlas Uranium mill which was a major uranium producer during the Cold War.  The Moab Tailings Project is shipping two 26-car trains per day, M-F.

ASU research on cover of Science

The February 26 cover of Science is provided by Olaf Zielke and Ramon Arrowsmith in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU.  It accompanies their co-authored paper on rupture history of the San Andreas fault.

Cover caption from Science: High-resolution (0.25 meters per pixel) hillshade map showing the topography of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain of California. Two stream channels that bend at the fault have been displaced about 10 meters (lower right) by two earthquakes and 16 meters (upper left) by as many as five earthquakes, including the most recent earthquake in 1857. Blue indicates lower elevations.  Image: O. Zielke, J. R. Arrowsmith/Arizona State University; L. Grant Ludwig, S. O. Akiz, G. R. Noriega/University of California, Irvine; topography data gathered by the B4 Project and processed by OpenTopography.

Ref: Climate-Modulated Channel Incision and Rupture History of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, Lisa Grant Ludwig,* Sinan O. Akçiz, Gabriela R. Noriega, Olaf Zielke, J Ramón Arrowsmith

National Ground Water Awareness Week

National Groundwater Awareness Week starts today. Or tomorrow, depending which page on the National Ground Water Association web site you want read.

But regardless, NGWA points out that 90% of all fresh water in the world is groundwater.   About 12 million households rely on wells for their water, as do many communities for all or part of their water.

NGWA has compiled a list of resource links for each state, including Arizona.

The Association of American State Geologists (of which AZGS is a member, is co-sponsoring the Week).

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Kent Decree on Salt River Valley water law turns 100

The East Valley Tribune tells the story of the Kent Decree, issued by Judge Edward H. Kent of the District Court of the Territory of Arizona, on March 1, 1910.    Reporter Ed Taylor makes the case that this decision resolved numerous legal issues and set the stage for allocation of water rights in the Salt River Valley.

This landmark decision "affirmed the doctrine that the first people to use water beneficially on the land had the priority rights to that water. And it set the stage for the federal government to finance construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam [right, credit SRP] and reservoir northeast of Mesa" that was critical to the economic development of the region.

NOAA's Climate Service prototype Web site

NOAA's prototype Web site for the new Climate Service is now online with a Global Climate Dashboard, that allows you to look at a variety of climate indicators over different periods of time.    The chart at right show sea level change from 1912 to 2009, in feet.

Geologic maps for all 50 states updated online

Andrew's Geology Blog has updated his online compilation of geologic maps for all 50 states that he started 10 years ago.   He's "using larger images and a brief introduction to the geology of each state."

The maps are posted on the website.

I've heard from a few of my fellow state geologists that there are newer versions of their state maps (e.g. Iowa, Ohio) but Andrew says this is the only national compilation of geologic maps.  I can imagine that some of us will be sending him the newer versions we have.

[right, geologic map of Arizona from the USGS]

CAP video describes Avra Valley recharge project

 The Central Arizona Project has a YouTube channel that includes a video of Tom Harbour, who's with the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, describing the purpose and history of the Avra Valley Recharge Project (AVRP).

Thanks to the Brown & Caldwell Arizona Water News for sharing this.

Special issue on HiRISE Martian landforms

The January special issue of Icarus offers 21 papers on results from the Univ. of Arizona-managed HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The papers cover "Martian landforms shaped by winds, water, lava flow, seasonal icing and other forces."

Among the highlights addressed are:

Valleys associated with light-toned layered deposits in several locations along the plateaus adjacent to the largest canyon system on Mars suggest low-temperature alteration of volcanic rocks by acidic water both before and after formation of the canyons.

The youngest flood-lava flow on Mars, found in the Elysium Planitia region and covering an area the size of Oregon, is the product of a single eruption and was put in place turbulently over a span of several weeks at most.

New details are observed in how seasonal vanishing of carbon-dioxide ice sheets in far-southern latitudes imprints the ground with fan-shaped and spider-shaped patterns via venting of carbon-dioxide gas from the undersurface of the ice.

SME president Will Wilkinson talks about mining and renewable energy

Will Wilkinson, VP for Exploration with Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, is completing his term as president of SME and gave an interview in the current issue of "Coal People Magazine."

Among the issues he addresses are the growing need for copper and other minerals on producing and transmitting renewable energy, particularly wind farms and solar, and in powering hybrid vehicles.

He noted that the growing demand for electricity as well as maintaining base load capacity, means "coal will be around for a very long time" as an electric power source.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Consultants report upturn in mining business

Attendance at the just completed SME annual convention held in Phoenix may have been lower than some of the vendors hoped for, but local consultants and service company reps that I talked to were saying that they are getting as busy as they were in 2008 before the downturn.    Lots of deal-making going on all around us.

There seems to be guarded optimism that the mining sector spending is real and growing.  The record price of gold and the dramatic recovery of copper in the past year were a common topic of discussion in the aisles of the exhibit hall.   [right, joint AZGS- State Land Dept exhibit booth]

Geologic hazards cause $4.1 million in road damages

"Flooding, rock falls and landslides, sink holes and near-record snowfall" from winter storms are blamed by ADOT for recent damages to state roads across Arizona.  The Arizona Daily Sun reports that most of the costs for repairs will come from the ADOT operations budget.  On the drive to work this morning, I heard that ADOT is selling vehicles and equipment at auction to help raise the estimated $4.1 million in repair funds.

Water, environmental concerns raised over mining bill

The Green Valley News has reported on concerns raised by local water companies and environmental groups about Arizona HB2617, a bill that would prevent any state laws or rules to be more restrictive than federal requirements.   The Community Water Co. of Sahuarita is quoted as worrying about their ability to prevent potential sulfate plumes from mines.

There are a lot of complexities to the bill and the first hearings have been packed, but mostly with supporters.   It looks like it may be heating up.

Chile quake forecast by strain accumulation in seismic gap

 The fault segment that ruptured this week in Chile was identified in a paper last year as having strain buildup that, in a 'worst-case' situation, was ready to produce up to an 8.5 magnitude earthquake.   [right, Fig 1 from the paper.   Circles are GPS stations, stars are major historical earthquakes, ellipses show rupture areas]

The authors conclude that "The Concepción–Constitución area [35–37◦S] in South Central Chile is very likely a mature seismic gap,
since no large subduction earthquake has occurred there since 1835."   The amount of convergence exceeds more than 10 m since the last major interplate quake of 170 years ago.

Ref: Interseismic strain accumulation measured by GPS in the seismic gap between Constitución and Concepción in Chile, J.C. Ruegga, A. Rudloff b, C. Vignyb, R. Madariagab, J.B. de Chabaliera, J. Camposc, E. Kauselc, S. Barrientosc, D. Dimitrovd, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 175 (2009) 78–85

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sand and gravel consumption in Phoenix

An article in this months issue of Mining Engineering reports that per capita consumption of sand and gravel aggregate in 2006 in the metropolitan Phoenix area was about 18 tons (20 short tons).    The study examines the geology of the aggregate resources along the Agua Fria River which is a significant source.

Geologic study of gravels of the Agua Fria River, Phoenix, AZ
W.H. Langer, E. DeWitt, D.T. Adams and T. O’Brie, Mining Engineering, Feb, 2010, p27-31.

Solar power on mine tailings

For the past couple of years there's been a lot of chatter about the idea of covering mine tailings with solar panels.

Well, at the SME meeting that just ended in Phoenix, I spoke with Nathan Barba and Stacey Abend, who run Solarmax Arizona.  The have an experimental installation of their solar photo voltaic geomembrane strips on slopes at Biosphere II and propose  placing them on tailings piles as part of reclamation activities.  The panels are impermeable, preventing erosion, while producing electricity.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Rockfall, flooding reported

This weekend's heavy rains across the state after a wetter than normal winter so far, are keeping everyone alert to landslides and flooding hazards.  I've only seen a couple of ADOT highway hazard notices:

Event Id 349228
Location On State Route 88, EW-bound from mile post 213.0, 3.50 miles East of Salt River to mile post 244.0, at state route 188 junction
Duration from Sun, 28 Feb 2010 12:05 PM to Tue, 2 Mar 2010 12:30 PM
Description closed due to flooding

Event Id 349362
Location On State Route 366, East-bound from mile post 124.40, 1.0 miles West of ARCADIA FOREST CAMP
Duration March 1 from 2:28 P.M. to 3:30 P.M.
Description rockfall. Caution     

Why you don't cross flooded washes

The El Niño rains have saturated the ground in southeastern Arizona, and new rainfall flows off quickly, producing hazardous road conditions.  The van in this picture was being driven on Happy Valley Road in the Eastern Rincon Mountains Feb. 23 when the driver tried to cross a flooded wash.  The current pushed the back end of the van downstream, rotating it about 110 degrees so that it pointed directly up stream.  The driver could not open the doors because of the water pressure, but was able to climb out the window and, holding on to the strap, get away from the vehicle.  He then walked to a rancher’s house on a cold, wet night.

[Thanks to AZGS geologist Jon Spencer for the description and photo]