Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our 'baby' is a star!

"Tunguska" the AZGS map store's mammoth mascot, was profiled in the Arizona Daily Star today.

She's actually a museum-quality reproduction of a 1-year Siberian wooly mammoth, on loan from the Museum of Natural History in Novosibirsk, Russia. Her name was the winning entry in a kids-only contest held during the Tucson Book Festival [right, my photo] where she was a big hit with kids and their parents.

The fiberglass body is covered with fur from an Altai yak, arguably the closest existing fur to what a real mammoth would look and feel like.

Ghost towns of Arizona has its own Facebook page

I'm clearly not spending enough time playing around with other social media besides this blog. Who knew there is a Facebook page on Arizona ghost towns? [right, Canyon Diablo, circa 1890]

There's a lot of updates there to what's in my 1969 copy of "Ghost Towns of Arizona" from University of Oklahoma Press.

There's also with links to 275 Arizona ghost towns.

Nuclear waste report calls for new geologic repository

The report of the blue ribbon commission on nuclear waste is calling for "A new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed," including development of one or more geologic disposal facilities and one or more consolidated interim storage facilities.

The report was triggered by the President's decision to stop development of the Yucca Mountain underground storage site in Nevada [right, credit, DOE]

The commission calls for "a new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities," which implies finding a host locale that will accept or even invite it.

Arizona State Senator Al Melvin (R-Marana) has been advocating putting a high-level waste site in Arizona along with a fuel reprocessing facility.

Strain on global food supply pushing demand for potash

Emerging economies and bad weather are putting strains on global food supplies, pushing farmers to expand their plantings and thus increasing demands for potash-based fertilizers. This is the view of Potash Corp. CEO Bill Doyle in an interview posted on, explaining the 75% increase in 2Q company earnings. [right, potash salt. Credit USGS]

The article also notes that North American potash inventories at the end of June were 26% below the average of the last 5 years.

There is a worldwide race on to develop new potash mines to meet demand, but there are concerns among some analysts that there could be an overcapacity down the road. Arizona's Holbrook basin deposit is currently a center of intense exploration by at least 3 companies. The deposit is one of the shallowest known, is close to rail and an interstate highway, and could help meet U.S. demand.

Friday, July 29, 2011

State Geothermal Data project earns kudos

The DOE external Peer Review panel evaluated the first year of the AZGS-managed State Geothermal Data project and rated it ‘excellent’ to ‘outstanding.’ The only ‘criticisms’ were desires to see the user applications developed quickly so industry can use the system. These are goals for year 2 that are under development. Some comments from the reviewers:

“The approach taken by the PI and research team has been exceptional. The technical approach taken by the PI is remarkable, reasonable and logical.”

“Results are already extensive and impressive.”

“This is a strong, well-managed project.”

“The most visible strength was the outstanding project management.”

“This project has definitely made a significant impact on DOE's mission and goals. The project has evolved exceptionally well and has addressed many difficulties in attempting to achieve its stated goals.”

AZGS is working through the Association of American State Geologists to digitize data relevant to geothermal energy from all 50 states, create a national distributed data network, and link it into the National Geothermal Data System.

ASU is running "most epic big science project in the universe"

Popular Science magazine has declared the EarthScope [top right, credit EarthScope] project to be the most epic big science project in the universe. And Arizona State University's School of Earth & Space Exploration (SESE) took over on July 1 as the host university for the EarthScope National Office.

Popular Science took into account four objective factors: the construction costs, operating budget, the size of the staff and the physical size of the project itself. Three subjective factors were also added in: the project’s scientific utility, its utility to the average person (“what will it do for me”) and the “wow” factor.

[bottom right, Beginning July 1, 2011, the EarthScope National Office is being hosted at Arizona State University. Ramon Arrowsmith is the Director of the ESNO@ASU, and Steve Semken is the Deputy Director for Education and Outreach. Wendy Taylor is the E&O Coordinator, and Ed Garnero and Matt Fouch are heavily involved as Principal Investigators. Photo credit, EarthScope]

The USArray component of EarthScope deployed 58 broadband seismometers across Arizona in the early stages of the project before rolling them eastward as part of the nationwide experiment to characterize the North American crust in 3D. AZGS in partnership with ASU, NAU, and UA and funding from FEMA, acquired 8 of those stations, which now form Arizona's first statwide seismic monitoring network.

SESE says that "landing a spot on Popular Science's Big Science list served as reminder to look back and recognize the School of Earth and Space Exploration participation in several other monumental projects. Over the next few days, you can send in your suggestions for projects that should be considered for SESE’s “Top 10 Epic Projects” list. Please send your suggestions to Nikki Cassis either via email or on Facebook. Check back early next week to view SESE’s “big science” list."

And in another linkage, I was on the external panel that reviewed and recommended funding of EarthScope to the National Science Foundation.

[parts of this post are taken from the EarthScope newsletter and ASU SESE website]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grand Canyon mining furor

The Energy Report website says, "Top Democrat appropriator Norm Dicks thinks his party has a “decent shot” to vote down an Interior-EPA spending bill rider that would prevent the Obama administration from blocking new uranium mining on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon." The rider was introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece ("
GOP lawmakers have Canyon under siege") yesterday in the Arizona Republic, Congressman Raul Grijalva raised the specter of mining taking place in the Canyon itself, saying "Arizona doesn't want to open the Grand Canyon for mining, drilling or any other kind of disruption. The Canyon isn't just a pile of rocks or a vein of minerals waiting to be turned into cash."

The million acres of federal lands under debate are actually BLM and Forest Service lands [
right, credit, BLM] outside the national park boundaries, but there is widespread public perception that mining is proposed inside the park and inside Grand Canyon.

update 8pm:
Keiran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, warns in an op-ed posted this evening, that if the House Appropriations rider passes, "The place that millions consider a national treasure could become a radioactive industrial zone."

Mother Jones magazine says "uranium mining in the region raises concerns not just about damage to an iconic national park, but risks to water resources and health in the region, too." ["
House GOP: Grand Canyon Should Be a Uranium Mine"]

note: for some unexplained reason, the last half of this post was not showing up when it was posted online. The only way I can get it to appear is to disable the live links to the sources. First time I've had this happen.

Mapping the daily spread of the Wallow fire

The Wallow wildfire is the largest in state history and the Arizona Republic newspaper has compiled a striking set of maps showing the day by day growth of the fire. The one at right is the last in the series, with each color showing the acreage burned on one day. Clicking through the set demonstrates how quickly the fire swept across the region in its early days. Kudos to the Republic for a pulling this together.

[Map credit, Bill Pliske, with maps from and imagery from Google Maps]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sandbar experiment downstream of Glen Canyon Dam

The USGS has published results of the most recent high flow experiments on the Colorado River to rebuild sand bars below Glen Canyon Dam. They found that "Each of the controlled floods resulted in sandbar deposition that was followed by erosion in the 6-month post-flood period. Erosion rates are positively correlated with post-flood dam release volumes and negatively correlated with post-flood tributary sediment supply volume."

[right, "typical eddy sandbar and adjacent channel showing pattern of recirculating flow, the reference stage of 227 m3/s in white, and a typical backwater “closure” line in red. The portion of the sandbar above the reference stage and below the reference stage is illustrated. Mainstem flow is from bottom right to top left." Credit, USGS]

Ref: GEOMORPHIC RESPONSE OF SANDBARS TO THE MARCH 2008 HIGH-FLOW EXPERIMENT ON THE COLORADO RIVER DOWNSTREAM FROM GLEN CANYON DAM, Paul E. Grams, et al, 2nd Joint Federal Interagency Conference, Las Vegas, NV, June 27 - July 1, 2010

Mysteries still cloud Montezuma Well geology and geochemistry

The USGS has issued a new report on the geology, geochemistry, and groundwater of Montezuma Well, the eponymous center of a national monument but they acknowledge that more information on the geology, surface water, and groundwater flow is needed to test the conceptual ideas they have on how the system operates.

"The source of water to Montezuma Well, a flowing sinkhole in a desert setting, is poorly understood. Water emerges from the middle limestone facies of the lacustrine Verde Formation, but the precise origin of the water and its travel path are largely unknown. Some have proposed artesian flow to Montezuma Well through the Supai Formation, which is exposed along the eastern margin of the Verde Valley and underlies the Verde Formation. The groundwater recharge zone likely lies above the floor of the Verde Valley somewhere to the north or east of Montezuma Well, where precipitation is more abundant"

Ref: Johnson, R.H., DeWitt, Ed, Wirt, Laurie, Arnold, L.R., and Horton, J.D., 2011, Water and rock geochemistry, geologic cross sections, geochemical modeling, and groundwater flow modeling for identifying the source of groundwater to Montezuma Well, a natural spring in central Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1063, 62 p.

Third quake of the day at Lake Mead

There was a third earthquake this morning, a magnitude 2.2 event possibly under Lake Mead. The USGS lists it as occurring in Nevada but their most detailed map shows it just over the border in Arizona. [right, location map from USGS]

Earlier today, we had magnitude 2.4 and 2.o events nearby.

update 7-27-11 4pm: all 3 quakes are now gone from the USGS earthquake page and list. We assume they decided they were not tectonic, ie, they are due to the lake filling??, and so deleted them.

Second quake this morning near Lake Mead

There was a second quake near Lake Mead this morning. At 8:48 local time there was a magnitude 2.0 shock just southwest of the magnitude 2.4 event that occurred earlier today. [right, location map from USGS]

Continuing education requirement under consideration for Arizona geologists

The Arizona Board of Technical Registration is considering a requirement for continuing education for maintenance of professional licensing of geologists.

The Arizona Chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists has weighed in on the proposal, evaluating the benefits and costs, and effectiveness in states where similar measures have been instituted.

In the Chapter newsletter circulated today, Erick Weiland, the geologist on the ABTR, summarized his analysis of the proposal. Only 8 of 30 ASBOG states (states using the ASBOG test procedures for licensure) have Continuing Education requirements. Erick wrote:

Several States have indicated that they “believe” that CEU requirements help protect the Public, but each indicated that they do not have any data to support this belief. Several States indicated that they were just following the lead from the Engineering Boards when implementing the requirement and did not provide any justification for this to their legislatures. Most believe that CEU requirements help professionals stay current.

From a professional’s perspective staying current may provide an individual with an edge over the competition, and may increase the public protection and welfare in the process. However, having a CEU requirement for registrants has not been demonstrated to increase public protection and welfare and may add a significant burden to the Board in the administration of the program. In fact, twenty-two (22) of the thirty (30) ASBOG States have determined not to include a CEU requirement in the renewal of registrations. In Arizona it is rare that a Geologist appears before the Board. Adding a CEU requirement will not change this (except that the Board will have to evaluate CEUs every year adding to the administrative workload).

Small quake near Lake Mead

We had another small quake a few minutes ago, near Lake Mead along the AZ-NV border. The magnitude 2.4 event occurred at 7:20 am local time. [right, location map from USGS]

There have been a number of similar sized quakes in this area for several months. Could they be due to the refilling of Lake Mead from spring runoff coming down the Colorado River?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ASU camera spots rare volcanoes on dark side of moon

When a science story gets a mention on the Colbert Report along with the debt ceiling debate, it must be big news, right?

Anyway, the ASU-run Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has captured images on the far side of the moon of rare silicic volcanism. Woop, woop!

A paper in the new issue of Nature Geosciences and discussion at demonstrate excitement in the planetary science community. But the full implications of this confirmation are still being weighed. [right, LROC image between the Compton and Belkovich craters. The colored region marks a high amount of the mineral thorium, which is thought to have been deposited by rare silicate volcanoes in the past. Credit: NASA/GSFC/ASU/WUSTL, processing by B. Joliff and]

Good size quakes in Gulf of California

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit the southern Gulf of California late this morning (11:44 am local time) followed by a magnitude 5.0 aftershock almost two hours later. [right, epicenter location. Red lines are faults. Credit, USGS]

The location is near a major transform fault separating two spreading centers that are tearing Baja California away from the mainland.

So far, only a handful of reports are coming in of it being felt, including a few from Southern California.

U.S House overturns northern Arizona mining ban

The U.S. House yesterday passed a rule for the Dept. of Interior appropriations bill, with a provision that overturns the ban on mineral exploration and mining on 1 million acres of federal lands in northern Arizona, imposed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The bill, HR 2584, passed by a vote of 205-131.

The affected lands are outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.

updated 7-27-11 12:08pm - clarification that the House passed a rule, but not the actual appropriations bill.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fire and water - floods, muds, and flows

The monsoon rains coming on top of the worst wildfire season in Arizona's modern history are producing floods, mudslides, and debris flows. [right, Horseshoe 2 fire. Credit,]

A flash flood and possible mudslide took out the main water line for the town of Tombstone, which for more than 100 years carried water by gravity feed from Miller Canyon in the Huachuca's, an area severely impacted by the Monument fire. [note: I initially mistakenly said it is in the Chiricahu's]

A home in nearby Hereford was also hit with flooding and reported mudslide, but Phil Pearthree, Chief of the AZGS Environmental Geology Section which handles natural hazards, cautions that the first floods after fires are notoriously full of ash, and people generally have no idea how much suspended sediment is carried by floods in our region.

The AZ Dept. of Transportation reopened a section of highway 191, one of the few paved roads in the White Mountains, after it had been closed for a week due to a likely debris flow.

Residents in the Wallow fire area are preparing for floods, mudslides, and debris flows as well. The good news is the National Weather Service has worked pretty hard to incorporate the greatly increased possibility of mass movements in the post-fire regime into their flood warnings.

Phil noted that these stories and others really illustrate the fact that there is very little time to develop any mitigation measures between fire and the onset of the monsoon. So, counties and cities, let's try to plan ahead and anticipate areas that may be affected by fires and flooding in the coming years. Some of them seem to be getting that message now. Coconino County has confronted that reality since last year's Schultz fire and subsequent flooding and rising concerns over debris flows.

Arizona utilities rank in top 10 for solar growth

Arizona Public Service is the 7th largest supplier of new solar energy generation by a utility in the U.S., according to the Solar Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings by the Solar Electric Power Association. APS provided 29.9 MW of new solar power capacity in 2010. The #1 increase came from California's Pacific Gas & Electric with 157.3 MW added. [right, APS' Prescott Airport solar plant, 3MW capacity. Credit, APS]

Tucson Electric Power came in 6th in the second category, Solar Watts per Customer, which measures the amount of new solar capacity installed, divided by the number of customers. TEP weighs in at 29.7 watts per customer, compared to top-ranked Silicon Valley Power (CA) with 39.9 watts.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flash flood alert site for Wallow and Schultz fire areas

The National Weather Service is setting up flash flood alert systems for residents downslope from the recent Wallow wildfire [right] and last year's Schultz fire near Flagstaff.

The Flash Flood Decision Support Pages provide live displays of weather radar, rainfall gauges throughout the burned areas, and alerts.

Dealing with alluvial fan flooding and debris flows in Flagstaff

There is more debris coming off the area burned by last summer's Schultz fire than expected, and "This debris threatens to fill in many channels that engineers could design to push floodwaters around the communities," according to one of several stories in today's [Flagstaff] Daily Sun newspaper by Cyndi Cole. [right, AZGS geologist Ann Youberg points out the thickness of a debris flow above the Timberline neighborhood, triggered by monsoon rains last year, following the Schultz fire. Officials fear the volume of debris on the hillsides could overwhelm proposed flood control structures and create additional flooding. My photo]

County and federal officials are struggling with ways to mitigate flooding and debris flows but there are no easy or cheap answers.

The problems of alluvial fan flooding are described in a companion story. The Flagstaff communities of Timberline and Doney Park were surprised last year when hundreds of homes on the slopes below the Schultz fire were hit by flood waters. Flooding is going to be a problem for perhaps another 3-5 years until the upper slopes are revegetated and the soils can absorb rainfall. Meanwhile, the nature of alluvial fans causes runoff to jump from channel to channel, from one wash to another, with any given storm. Small channels can become the main stream with no notice.

Meanwhile, prison inmates are filling tens of thousands of sandbags to assist homeowners.

Channeling Mississippi River floodwaters to the West

Could Mississippi River floodwaters be channeled west to Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, freeing up Colorado River water to meet growing population demands?

That's the proposal from Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A story in the Las Vegas Review Journal says 350 million acre feet of water flows down the Mississippi in an average year, 25 times the flow of the Colorado. She argues that flood waters could irrigate crops in the Great Plains and West, leaving Colorado River water for downstream users in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and LA. [right, rivers of the U.S. Credit, National Map]. This would also presumably mitigate flooding in the central U.S.

Analysts say such a project would take decades and costs 10s to 100's of billions of dollars.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lost: our shared sense of purpose

"America is at a precipice. Sitting still is not an option. Our problems, while not hopeless, are urgent. And they require rediscovering something fundamental that we have lost: our shared sense of purpose..."

This is from the preface of a new book, "Adrift" by William Harris and Stephen Beschloss. Bill is CEO of Science Foundation Arizona.

The book is receiving strong praise from a wide spectrum of elected officials, analysts, academics, and business leaders.

I'm excited that Bill has put together his thoughts and vision. I've heard him speak to numerous groups and been in strategy sessions with him. I want to read this book.

Student competition to develop environmental 'apps'

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a competition for students to develop "green apps" to aid in environmental and public health protection. Winners of the "EPA Apps for the Environment" will be recognized at a national event in Washington DC.

Details are at the EPA website - You can follow the conversation on Twitter - #GreenApps.

Deadline for submissions is Sept. 16, 2011.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Uranium in the Colorado River

The debate over uranium mining in northern Arizona continues to focus on fears of uranium entering the Colorado River. The Las Vegas Sun today editorialized, "Republicans should quit trying to roll back uranium mining moratorium."

"Republicans in Congress should quit trying to repeal the moratorium and should instead work to protect the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. It makes no sense to put millions of people’s drinking water at risk." The presumption seems to be that the river is uranium-free now.

However, a U.S. Geological Survey report issued in 2010, provided data showing that the river carries an average of 120,000 lbs (a range of 40-80 tons) of uranium down the Grand Canyon every year. The uranium is apparently eroded from normal crustal concentrations over the large drainage area of the Colorado River basin.

Do water managers fear that millions of people's drinking water is currently at risk from the tons of uranium being carried naturally by the Colorado River?

Ref: Hydrological, Geological, and Biological Site Characterization of Breccia Pipe Uranium Deposits in Northern Arizona, Edited by Andrea E. Alpine, USGS SIR 2010-5025

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freeport profits more than double; ramping up Arizona production

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold reports net income for the 2Q of 2011 of $1.4 billion, more than double that of $649 million, a year ago. The increase is due to a combined increased in production of copper, gold, and molybdenum and price increases for the metals. The company said "Consolidated sales from mines for second-quarter 2011 totaled 1.0 billion pounds of copper, 356 thousand ounces of gold and 21 million pounds of molybdenum, compared with 914 million pounds of copper, 298 thousand ounces of gold and 16 million pounds of molybdenum for second-quarter 2010."

The company also described efforts to expand operations and increase production at its Arizona among others:

At Morenci [right, my photo, May 2008], FCX completed its project to ramp up mining rates to 635,000 metric tons of ore per day and milling rates to approximately 50,000 metric tons per day, resulting in an increase of 125 million pounds of copper per year.

FCX is advancing a feasibility study to expand mining and milling capacity at Morenci to process additional sulfide ores identified through positive exploratory drilling over the last few years. This project, which would require significant investment, would increase milling rates to approximately 115,000 metric tons of ore per day and target incremental annual copper production of approximately 225 million pounds within three years, following completion of the feasibility study, expected by year-end 2011.

The ramp up of mining activities at the Miami mine continues. FCX expects production at Miami to ramp up to approximately 100 million pounds of copper per year by 2012.

Potash exploration programs expand in Holbrook basin

Two companies have added a total of nine more core holes to their potash exploration programs in the Holbrook basin of eastern Arizona. Southwest Exploration/Passport Potash had 4 drilling permits approved by the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week; HNZ Potash had 5 permits approved.

At last report, 4 drill rigs were at work in the basin, working for these two companies and American West Potash. [right, AZGS potash viewer, showing permitted core holes in the deposit]

Flooding and debris flows from Monument fire area

On Wednesday afternoon, "A massive wall of fast-moving, grey and brown water funneled by Miller Canyon during an afternoon thunderstorm burst the banks of Miller Creek and spilled across Miller Canyon Road, threatening homes, property and people," according to a story in the Sierra Vista Herald. Miller Canyon was identified as one of the areas most at risk to floods and debris flows following the recent Monument wildfire in the Huachuca Mountains. [note, I initially mistakenly said the Chiricahua's]

Just minutes ago, the web site was updated with this report on flood debris blocking forest roads [right, Carr Canyon Bridge. Photo credit Inciweb]:

STORM PATROL RESPONDS TO CLOGGED FOREST ROADS Sierra Vista, AZ (July 21, 2011) – One of the treatments approved for the West Coronado Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is storm patrol. This treatment consists of equipment operators entering the burn area during a storm (if safe) or immediately after a storm event to clean out culverts, reestablish low water crossings and maintain other treatments that have been implemented to protect road infrastructure and reduce the potential for watershed degradation. Justin Michael is a Forest Service motor grader who has been called upon to clear roadways impacted by the Monument Fire twice. “I cleared low water crossings on Miller Canyon Road after the recent flood so people could make it out of their homes,” said Michael. “There was so much sediment mixed with boulders and logs all piled up that it looked like a beaver lodge had been built right there on the road.” Michael also cleared Forest Service Road 61, or the Montezuma Pass Road, just the week before when a flow originating in Copper Canyon made the road impassable. The road is heavily used by the Border Patrol. The patrols are used to identify road problems such as plugged culverts and washed-out roads after flooding and to clear and repair any road receiving severe surface erosion. In other Monument BAER news, team engineers continue to identify road locations at risk for storm damage. For example, low water crossings may need to be constructed in places where existing culverts are likely to fail when debris accumulates and starts to dam due to flooding. The public is invited to visit the InciWeb site at, for the latest information including maps, news releases, and photos of the fires assessed by the West Coronado BAER team.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dust storms and 114 degrees

I was in Phoenix today for meetings and to give talks on geologic hazards to the annual meeting of the Arizona Emergency Services Association, which put me on the road home to Tucson late this afternoon when monsoon storms and winds were gearing up.

Just south of Phoenix, there were too many dust devils to count. At Casa Grande, the midway point on the drive, parts of town were disappearing under dust clouds, that also engulfed sections of I-10, limiting visibility to about 1/4 mile. Another dust storm, smaller, but less visibility, south of town, and the last of three as I neared Picacho Peak.

On top of that the temperature in Phoenix was 114. Tucson felt balmy at 97. And I can't even say it was a dry heat, because of the monsoon humidity. Here's another video of recent Phoenix-area dust storms (not one that I drove through today however).

AZGS's first Kindle e-book now available

AZGS recently set up an online store at and now we have our first electronic book available for the Kindle.

"A Guide to the Geology of Catalina State Park and the Western Santa Catalina Mountains," (Down-to-Earth-12) [Kindle Edition], by John V. Bezy with photos by Larry D. Fellows can be purchased for only $1.99.

Watch for many more of the AZGS Down to Earth series to come out as e-books.

Japanese documentary crew filming today

A film crew from the Japanese tv network NHK was in the AZGS offices today in Tucson, interviewing Chief Geologist Jon Spencer [far right. Photo credit Mike Conway] about the role of geology in creating and influencing the nature of the Sonoran desert.

A theme of the documentary is to explain why the American Southwest deserts are so different from others such as the Gobi and Sahara deserts.

Mines - Survey consolidation formalized today

The legal consolidation of the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources with the Arizona Geological Survey became effective today. It was largely a non-event. AZGS took over management of the Mines Dept. assets in January when that agency ran out of funds. The staff were hired by AZGS and maintained most of their previous duties while the Legislature and Governor approved a formal consolidation.

AZGS was directed to digitize the extensive mining and mineral resource records and files amassed by ADMMR and put them online for public access. That project is underway but still gearing up. We've been able to win Data Preservation funds from the USGS to match state funds going into this

During our temporary custodianship, we made major progress in integrating accounting and finance systems, upgrading the ADMMR computers and network, carrying out a complete inventory of ADMMR assets, and transferring remaining external contracts to AZGS.

We now want to find more suitable (and publicly accessible) offices for the combined AZGS and ADMMR staff in Phoenix to establish a full-service AZGS branch office in the Phoenix valley to better serve our customers and stakeholders.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Phoenix haboob, part deux

Friends and colleagues driving between Phoenix and Tucson have been reporting thick dust storms since Sunday. But yesterday Phoenix experienced another massive haboob, perhaps not as dramatic as the one that rolled through a couple weeks ago, but still impressive. This video is by Mike Oblinski, as posted on CNN's ireport web site.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gold breaks $1600, silver over $40

The price of gold is $1602.21 at this writing, a new record and perhaps only a milestone on a path to even higher prices according to some. Silver also surged, jumping over $40.51 after retreating from that level earlier this summer. [right, gold nugget. Credit, USGS]

update 7-18-11 1pm: I edited this post to remove excerpts of a press release by an exploration company because some readers interpreted it as an endorsement.

Another small quake south of Lake Mead

We had a magnitude 2.2 quake south of Lake Mead this morning at 7:34 am local time. The event was about 23 east of Boulder City, Nevada.

There have been a number of similar quakes in this region throughout the spring and summer so far.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Commodity supercycle bodes well for Arizona copper

In an interview with the Gold Report, reprinted on, financial analyst Dr. Michael Berry, (whose Ph.D. is in quantitative analysis and investment finance from Arizona State University) said, "I think we're in the third inning of a very long commodity supercycle in the world. Copper rightly will take its place in that cycle. ... Some of the discovery progress in Arizona and Nevada now is going to become increasingly sought after by large and small companies. I think there's going to be a premium on what's happening in the U.S., Canada and, to a lesser extent, Mexico." [right, credit USGS]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Canada drops state-registered geologists as "qualified persons"

The AIPG newsletter this month reported that the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) "has shortened its list of recognized foreign professional organizations" that meet the definition of "qualified person" under National Instrument 43-101, so that "Licensed or registered geologists by US states are conspicuously absent." Basically, they deleted the designation of ASBOG certifications in the regulations appendix on "Accepted Foreign Associations and Membership Designations."

Yet, U.S. state registered engineers are still eligible to be qualified persons.

AIPG notes that U.S. geologists who want to serve as qualified persons, can qualify with AIPG Certification.

Land subsidence interactive maps online

The Arizona Dept. of Water Resources has its subsidence maps online in an interactive viewer.

There are multiple time intervals for each of 16 subsidence intervals. The map below shows the Hawk Rock (East Mesa - Apache Junction) area, from May 1992 to April 2000.

The ADWR subsidence program is seeking contributions from other government entities to try to continue subsidence monitoring in light of significant budget cuts to the agency.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Science Foundation Arizona touted as economic engine

Science Foundation Arizona is more than tripling state investments in job and business development in science and techology arenas.

An annual review by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice found that "since it began disbursing competitive grants in fiscal year 2007 through 2010, the cumulative impact of SFAz grants has led to:

· The creation of 1,524 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs

· The establishment of 16 new technology companies

· 1,168 scientific publications

· 120 patents filed and/or issued

· 12 new technology licenses in place

During the first three years (2007-2009), the state allocated $77.6 million for matching fund investments from the private sector, of which $63.4 million has been invested in university and nonprofit research funding initiatives. By the end of 2010, return on investment was more than 3-to-1, generating an additional $199.5 million in funds from industry, Federal, venture capital, and other sources, boiling down to $3.15 for every $1 invested by the state in research."

Resolution Copper land exchange passed in House Committee

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved the land exchange bill needed by Resolution Copper to move forward in development of what could be the largest copper producing mine in North America.

The underground mine is projected to provide as much as 20% of the U.S. demand for copper for 40 years and generate billions of dollars in revenues.

Cronkite News Services listed the property to be swapped [right, map of exchange parcel locations. Credit, Resolution Copper]:

Resolution Copper would get:
- 2,422 acres of the Oak Flat federal parcel in northeast Pinal County

The federal government would get 5,344 acres:
- 147 acres of the Turkey Creek parcel in Gila County
- 148 acres of the Tangle Creek parcel in Yavapai County
- 149 acres of the Cave Creek parcel in Maricopa County
- 640 acres of the East Clear Creek parcel in Coconino County
- 110 acres of the Apache Leap South End parcel in Pinal County
- 3,050 acres of the Lower San Pedro River lands in Pinal County
- 160 acres of the Dripping Springs area in Gila and Pinal counties
- 940 acres of the Appleton Ranch area in Santa Cruz County

The Town of Superior could buy up to 545 acres from the government:
- 30 acres of the Fairview Cemetery Parcel in Pinal County
- 265 acres around Superior Airport in Pinal County
- 250 acres of parcels contiguous to the airport land

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tycho crater central peak photo

We all know Tycho crater on the moon but you've never seen the central peak in such amazing detail. Check out the ASU LROC site to see the photo at right in perspective.

"Arizona State University researchers have released a stunning image of the Moon’s prominent impact crater Tycho, taken with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on 10 June 2011. This dramatic sunrise view of Tycho crater captured by Professor Mark Robinson’s LROC team with the narrow angle camera could be considered one of the most beautiful images of the Moon taken to date."

"The relatively young Tycho is the most conspicuous crater visible when the Moon is full. It is a very popular target with amateur astronomers because it is surrounded by a distinctive dark halo and radiating bright rays. Located in the southern lunar highlands at 43.37°S, 348.68°E, the approximately 82-kilometer (51 miles) wide Tycho crater fits the mold of a typical large complex impact crater with its flat floor, terraced inner-rim walls and prominent central peak. The summit of the central peak is 2 km (6562 ft) above the crater floor, and the crater floor is about 4700 m (15,420 ft) below the rim. Many "clasts" ranging in size from 10 meters to 100s of meters are exposed in the central peak slopes."

[excerpted from the ASU news release and LROC description]

ASU volcanology prof wins international award

Amanda Clarke, a volcanology professor at ASU, recently received the 2011 Wager Medal from the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) July 4 in Melbourne, Australia.

The medal is given every two years to one scientist under the age of 43 who has made outstanding contributions to the study of volcanology, particularly in the eight-year period prior to the award.

According to Barry Voight of Penn State University, who prepared the citation for the award and was one of the nominating members, “The Wager Medal has had a noteworthy track record of identifying the foremost talents in volcanology at a comparatively early stage in their careers. Amanda Clarke, an extraordinary young scientist of enormous breadth and ability, and a person of high character besides, is extremely deserving of this award” adding, “We can expect great things from her in the future.”

[excerpted from the ASU announcement]

Planetary scientist Tom Gehrels, 1925-2011

Renowned planetary scientist/astronomer Tom Gehrels [right, credit UA] passed away in Tucson on Monday at the age of 86. The University of Arizona posted his obituary online and there is another version on Wikipedia.

"Gehrels was among the first members of the fledgling Lunar and Planetary Laboratory when he joined the UA in 1961. During a long and distinguished career Gehrels pioneered new research on asteroids and comets, especially those that pose a collision threat to Earth."

He is credited with discovering several comets and being a member of a small team that discovered more than 4,000 asteroids.

I have numerous volumes on my shelves of the UA Press's Space Science Series of textbooks, that Tom founded and edited.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Half million sand bags to hold back Flagstaff post-fire floods

"More than a half-million sandbags are now in the flood area, and large concrete barriers sit around 160 homes," according to Andy Bertelsen, Coconino County public works director as reported in the Arizona [Flagstaff] Daily Sun.

The Timberline and Doney Park neighborhoods were hit by repeated floods after last summer's Schultz fire on forest lands upslope and have been preparing for more monsoon-generated floods this year and perhaps for 3-5 years more, until revegetation stabilizes hillsides. [right, Timberline home in 2010. My photo]

Copper price rising on Chinese demand, Chile strike

The price of copper has been going up daily, reaching $4.41 a lb today. I suspect it's due in part to the news that Chinese demand is projected to rise by year end, and a one-day strike at the world's number one copper producer in Chile, that is raising fears about it spreading. [right, native copper. Credit, Rosemont Copper]

Flood photos from Huachuca's Miller Canyon

The Sierra Vista Herald is running a few photos of the flood deposits coming down Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, near the town of Sierra Vista. The area was severely burned by the Monument fire, eliminating vegetation that normal slows runoff allowing it to soak in.

In addition, AZGS geologist Ann Youberg is quoted in a second article about Sunday's flash floods in the area following heavy monsoon rains.

Miller Canyon saw a 18-fold increase of sediment and Ash Canyon a 15-fold increase, according to the USFS Burn Area Emergency Response Team assessment [right, erosion hazard and sediment deposition in selected canyons in the Huachucas. Credit, Coronado Natl Forest BAER Team]

Post-fire mud and floods hitting southern Arizona

Joe Austin, owner of the El Coronado Ranch on West Turkey Creek, in the Chiracahuas, lives downslope from the Horseshoe II fire. He forwarded this photo [right] of the bridge by their house following a light rain on Monday. Heavier rains fell in the area on Sunday. You can see the how dark and muddy the water is.

Meanwhile, there are news reports of serious damage to four homes in the Miller Canyon area on the east side of the Huachuca's downslope of the Monument fire and efforts by residents to sandbag against more floods.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reports of homes damaged from post-fire flooding in Huachuca's

update 7-11-11, 08:47: the Sierra Vista Herald published a long story with more details this morning.

We have a report of 'serious' flooding in Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, causing 'substantial' damage to two homes. The area was burned in the Monument fire. Miller and Ash canyons were identified as having high potential for post-fire flooding and debris flows.

Rain gauges were installed by Arizona Dept. of Water Resources and the National Weather Service, to provide flood warnings to residents and emergency responders. [right, soil burn severity, Monument fire. Credit,]

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Debris flows a worry for Monument fire canyons

Forest Service officials are warning that heavy monsoon rains in the Huachuca Mountains southwest of Sierra Vista, could carry "mud, debris, and boulders" down canyons denuded by the Monument wild fire. Rain gauges were installed Thursday and Friday to give residents a warning when heavy rains could trigger flooding.

The rain gauges were installed at the heads of Ash and Miller canyons which are were identified as being of particular concern. [right, burn severity map, Monument fire. Credit, InciWeb]

Rain gauges installed in Horseshoe II and Monument fire areas for flood alerts

Based on recommendations of the Coronado National Forest's Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team and its interagency cooperators, two portable, self-sufficient real-time weather stations [right, credit USFS] have been emplaced within the burned area of the Horseshoe 2 wildfire. These portable battery/solar powered units can be set up in remote locations to observe current weather conditions, especially precipitation amounts. These units have been used successfully in situations such as post-fire burn areas for heavy rain monitoring and flash flood risk assessment. [AZGS geologist Ann Youberg was a member of the BAER Team and contributed to the assessment.]

In addition, we hear that two permanent ALERT raing gauges have been set up in the Monument fire area.

The weather data from these units is communicated in real-time via amateur radio automatic packet reporting system (APRS). The weather data APRS packets are typically transmitted every 10 minutes. These weather stations will be monitored by the National Weather Service and used to issue weather watch and warnings to nearby communities and recreational areas.

Residents are encouraged to use extreme caution when traveling in the vicinity of the Horseshoe 2 fire area. Monsoon rains on burned slopes will result in large flood events, debris flows, rolling rocks, and falling trees - all of which could block vehicular travel. Travelers need to use caution when driving on roads downstream from the fire area and to avoid crossing swift flowing water. Landowners living downstream from the burned areas need to be prepared to have their egress routes blocked and should have supplies of food, water, and clothing to be self-sufficient for several days until roads can be re-opened.

Remember, it does not need to be raining where you are for a flash flood to occur.

[this is taken largely from the Coronado National Forest news release]