Sunday, December 28, 2008

Geologic Events of Note in Arizona in 2008

This is my list of noteworthy events in geology in Arizona for 2008, admittedly incomplete and biased. I invite your additions. [right, Steve Reynold's 3D shaded relief geologic map of Arizona]

Historic Gandolfo Theater in Yuma is damaged by 5.4 magnitude event on 11 Feb 2008. Yuma rocked by a second 5.0 magnitude that same day.

Arizona is the #1 non-fuel minerals mining state in the nation for the 3rd year in a row, largely due to value of copper production.

The governor’s proposed merger of the Arizona Geological Survey and the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources is defeated by a legislative committee.

An Easter weekend landslide closes Beeline Highway (SR 87) near Payson for six days -- continued movement through December.

UofA provides first ever university leadership role for a planetary mission with the Phoenix Mars Lander. The Phoenix mission produces new insights into role of H2O on Mars and sets a new standard for communicating science and engaging the public in America and around the world.

AZGS and the 3 public universities receive nearly $500K from FEMA to construct a broadband seismic network in Arizona for monitoring seismicity and evaluating real seismic risk that should lead to better hazard mitigation.

Geology graduates get starting salary offers of $80K per year, rising to $100K as the demands from resource companies heat up.

Resolution Copper announces a $652 million assessment of the proposed mine near Superior.

Riding the metals rollercoaster -- copper (metals) industry sees record highs -- over $4.00 USD per lb in July – to lows – about $1.30 per lb as the year closes. Mining plans are shelved or cancelled, hundreds of miners are laid off.

Sterlite tops Grupo Mexico’s bid to take over bankrupt Asarco, but drops out as copper prices drop, but reportedly is working on a lower price offer.

The first resource assessment of the potash deposit near Holbrook Arizona finds as much as 2.2 billion tons in place, an increase in total U.S. resources by about one-third. Depending on mining methods, the tenfold increase in potash prices puts a value on the deposit of perhaps more than a trillion dollars.

High-resolution earth fissure maps were released for Apache Junction, Chandler Heights, Toltec Buttes, Mesa, Scottsdale, Pete’s Corner and Luke (near Luke Air Force Base). Arizona Dept of Real Estate hosts interactive IMS for earth fissure maps.

The Museum of Northern Arizona therizinosaur dinosaur exhibit opens to rave reviews.

Maps show extensive Recent and historic debris flow deposits for 15 canyons in the Santa Catalina Mountains foothills, many with homes on or adjacent to the flow deposits. Speculation abounds as to the impact of climate change on recurrence patterns of moderate-volume debris flows in south-central and southern Arizona.

A newly discovered and widely reported “dinosaur dance floor” is re-examined as maybe just some unusual potholes.

12 July flood in Nogales, Sonora blamed on border wall. Damages run to $8 million.

Renewed interest in uranium deposits in breccia pipes across northern Arizona led to a national battle between Congress and the Department of Interior over authority to limit exploration and mining near the Grand Canyon.

Havasu Falls – 16 August flood damages water falls and hiking trails in Cataract and Havasu canyons. No injuries but repairs estimated at over $2.0 million.

Interest grew in geothermal resources culminating in a new Western US plan for leasing on public lands, although some of the most prospective lands in Arizona are left out.

USGS reports more than 100 naturally occurring deposits of asbestos in Arizona.

Climate modeling indicates the desert southwest will be particularly hard hit by global warming, with longer droughts and more extremes in rainfall.

Residents near the Agua Fria River in the Phoenix valley fear that sand and gravel mining are the cause of health problems in senior citizen communities.

Noteworthy books of the year: Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, by Ron Blakey (Northern Arizona University) and Wayne Ranney, provides a visual history of the evolution of the Colorado Plateau from the Proterozoic to the Present. Ken Hamblin's magnificent new book, Anatomy of the Grand Canyon: Panoramas of the Canyon's Geology offers spectacular photos with exquisite geologic explanations.

The massive ancient Marcus landslide was documented near Scottsdale.

Science Foundation of Arizona and mining companies unveil a plan to provide $17 million dollars to fund the Institute for Mineral Resources at the University of Arizona.

A newly proposed “old age” for the Grand Canyon (about 17 Ma) receives tremendous news media attention but the interpretation is shot down from a variety of “old hands” in Canyon studies.

Arizona State University joins NASA’s Astrobiology Institute and starts work on to guide the search for life by characterizing life’s elemental requirements.

AZGS & BLM open Explore Arizona store/information center to meet needs of public for public lands info and to host a site in PHX that provides scientific reports, maps, and bulletins to government, business and industry.

Efforts to reconcile opponents over the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, hit a wall when the Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution backed out of a mediation role, citing intractable positions by participants.

Parts of the Santa Cruz River are declared navigable because of effluent releases.

Permitting for the proposed Davidson Canyon limestone quarry in Pima County took numerous twists and turns as various government agencies took surprising actions one after another.

The Arizona Geological Society celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Water is an issue every day.

[thanks to Mike Conway, head of the AZGS Geologic Extension Service, for suggesting many of these items]


  1. Thanks Lee and Mike for a great recap. I'd like to see every state survey post a list like this.

  2. Anonymous8:28 AM

    And of course the Central Arizona Geology Club was formed, providing meetings and field trips for those in the Prescott/Cottonwood/Sedona area (and anyone who in interested in attending)