Friday, June 29, 2007

Comments invited on seismic hazard maps

Ken Fergason, president of the Phoenix chapter of AEG forwarded this message from the USGS:

The USGS has prepared updated draft versions of the national seismic hazard model and maps, intended only for public review and comment during June and July 2007, not for use.

The maps and documentation are available at: Follow the link for "2007 NSHMP Draft Documentation". Most of you will only be interested in the "(Preliminary) Documentation" and "(Preliminary) Maps". Interactive, zoomable GIS versions of the maps are available via the "Interactive Maps" button in the blue zone to the left of the "Documentation" and "Maps" buttons; you can zoom in on any location in the 48 states. Other links access additional maps, arrays of ground motions for various PEs, input data, and the hazard software. Data content at some these links is still being updated, but the documentation and hazard values should be stable during the review period. [above right - peak ground acceleration, with 2% chance of occurring in 50 years. USGS draft map]

Please review the maps and documentation and send your comments and concerns to

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Geothermal energy part of new state mandate

Arizona has a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 15% which means the state's regulated utilities have to get 15% of their electric generation from renewable energy resources. This is up from the old requirement of 1.1%. Another change is that geothermal energy is included now in the mix.

We should expect Arizona utilities to explore for high temperature geothermal resources that might support electric generation.

We might also expect them to promote use of moderate and low temperature resources for space heating, green houses, etc. This use of distributed energy production, by consumers, can count towards the utilities 15% obligation.

The Arizona Corporation Commission approved the larger RPS earlier this year, but implementation was waiting for an opinion by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. That approval came last week.

George Davis' rock collection in 3-D

George Davis let the UA virtual reality lab use rocks from his personal collection to demonstrate their capabilities. Move them around in 3-D at

George is a professor of geology at UA and recently stepped down as Provost to get back to teaching and research.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Aquifer level falling despite headline

The headline in the Tucson Daily Star this morning practically yelled,

Big central aquifer rises 25 feet

But further reading disclosed that the rise is for a small part of the aquifer under central Tucson. According to a quote from Tucson Water spokesman Mitch Basefsky, the area where the level is still falling is larger than where it's rising. In other words, the aquifer water level overall is still dropping.

How many readers of the newspaper came away understanding that? My guess is not many.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mapping lawsuit dismissed

The lawsuit that many scientists believed would prohibit anyone but licensed surveyors and engineers from making a map (see my May 14 blog), was dismissed by the judge today in summary judgement.

The judgement said "Nothing in the legislative history of the 1988 amendment suggests that the phrase 'surveying and mapping' was intended to broaden the Brooks Act’s focus from construction on federal lands to the procurement of mapping services unrelated to construction on real property."

See more comments at:

The court's decision is posted in full at:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Is brackish water the coming groundwater resource?

Could today's brackish groundwater resources be the fresh water resources of tomorrow? If so, we have to be concerned about the geologic sequestration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) into saline or brackish aquifers.

That's the message here at the state geologists annual meeting from Kevin McCray, Executive Director of the 14,5000 member National Ground Water Association.

Kevin noted that 40,000 communities and 15 million households get water from groundwater resources. The growing pressures on ground water are coming from population increase, demands for biofuels, and climate change.

Geology images downloadable from AGI

The American Geological Institute's "Image Bank" has over 6,600 geology images online ( that can be searched by subject and freely downloaded for use in talks and presentations. There are outstanding Arizona images in the bank, including the one shown here.

AGI's new Executive Director, Pat Leahy, briefed us at the State Geologist's annual meeting, on this and the upcoming geology documentary that will be shown on the Discovery Channel this fall.

[right: Arizona's SP Crater downloaded from the AGI Image Bank, @ Michael Collier]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Geology prof to head ASU Global Sustainability Institute

The Arizona Republic reports that Dr. Jonathan Fink will take over as ASU's "chief of sustainability" and Director of the Global Institute of Sustainability on July 1. He is former chair of the ASU geology department, and for the last 10 years has been ASU Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs. (

The Republic says ASU is the first university in the country to start a School of Sustainability.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Earth fissures on Ch 8's "Horizon" show

The Phoenix PBS affiliate, KAET-TV, Channel 8, devoted half of last Wednesday night's edition of the "Horizon" program to earth fissures in Arizona. It can viewed in Windows Media Viewer or Quicktime, or listened to as a podcast at Scroll down to May 30 and click on the earth fissures link.

[right: earth fissure in Chandler Heights area, southeast of Phoenix, August 2005]

Karl Flessa to chair UA Geosciences

Professor Karl Flessa is taking over as chair of the UA Geosciences Dept, one of the best in the nation (US News & World Report ranks them 8th in Earth Science, 7th in Geology, 12th in Geophysics, and 16th in Geochemistry). Susan Beck is stepping down after an extremely productive seven years as chair.

I was on the external review panel for the department's Academic Program Review, an evaluation that occurs every seven years. The panel described the Geosciences Dept as one of the university's greatest assets and encouraged additional strategic investment in the program.

Karl's bio is at

He describes himself as a collector of "roadside dinosaurs."

Earth fissure maps released

The Arizona Geological Survey released four maps today that comprise the first state-wide compilation of known and reported earth fissures. The 1:250,000 scale maps identify earth fissures in Cochise, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties. On these maps we identify 22 discrete study areas hosting one or more earth fissures that will be mapped at high resolution (perhaps one meter or better) using GPS (global positioning system). [right: Pinal Co. Earth Fissure Planning Map]

You can find the planning maps in pdf format online at the AZGS home page ( or go directly to

Paper copies are available at the AZGS bookstore at 416 W. Congress in Tucson, or from the AZ Dept of Mines & Mineral Resources giftshop at 1502 W. Washington in Phoenix. They are $4 each.

We are continuing to add materials and links to the web page. Suggestions are welcome.

The first area to be mapped in detail, Chandler Heights, is expected to be completed this month.
These high resolution data will be displayed online in an interactive GIS format, at 1:24,000 scale by Arizona State Land Department within 90 days of receiving the data from AZGS.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mining Law Revision Introduced

The American Geological Institute reports: 
"The Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Nick Rahall(D-WV)
introduced a broad package of reforms to the 1872 Mining Law on May 11, 2007
[the 135th anniversary of the legislation]. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation
Act of 2007 (H.R. 2262) would eliminate patents and impose an 8 percent net
smelter return royalty on hardrock minerals, identify federal lands that would
not be open to mining, establish environmental standards for mining activity,
limit permits to 10 years and make any company that violates the environmental standards
[above, Bagdad copper
mine,copyright @ Michael Collier]
ineligible for new permits until they reach compliance, establish a mine reclamation fund from royalty revenues,
and established public participation guidelines, including inspection and enforcement of requirements plus the
ability for citizens to sue if companies violate these rules. The measure would also change the outdated provision
of selling federal land for $2.50 or $5.00 per acre. Congress has annually placed a moratorium on such sales
for more than a decade."

The full text of the legislation is available at: