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Make the Most of Recess

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 1:11pm
Every August, Washington D.C. shuts down as members of both chambers of Congress return to their districts and everyone else in politics takes vacation; this is known as August recess. During August recess members will be focused on spending time with their families, visiting important sites in their district, and making themselves available to their constituents through coffeehouse chats, town halls, and other public events.  August recess is a time …

Landslide sessions at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 4:00am
The abstract deadline for the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting is tomorrow (Wednesday). There are three very exciting landslide sessions.

Sol 1064: Dump pre-sieve sample

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 1:00pm
The activities planned for last weekend completed successfully, including sample dropoff to CheMin (shown in image) and analysis of the minerals present.  So the Sol 1064 plan includes dumping the portion of the drill sample that has not been sieved and Mastcam, ChemCam, MAHLI, and APXS observations of the dump pile.  ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe nearby targets “Martz” and “Mountain Home.”  MAHLI will image the drill hole, tailings …

The Sykesville Formation, in 6 new GigaPans

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 8:34am
As part of my work on the GEODE project, I’m always looking for good imagery to teach key concepts in geoscience. One important concept that I’ve been thinking about lately is the principle of relative dating on the basis of inclusions. Just as you can’t bake a loaf of raisin bread without already having raisins in your kitchen, rock units that are included in another rock unit must be older …

The Fukaminato River landslide in Japan

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 3:38am
Even better footage has now emerged of the Fukaminato River landslide in Japan, which appears to be occurring at the site of an old quarry

Embarking on the 32nd Annual North Cascade Glacier Climate Project

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 6:22pm
  Sholes Glacier snowcover Aug. 5, 2013 (Jill Pelto) and Sholes Glacier July 23, 2015 (Oliver Grah) For the 32nd straight summer we will be investigating North Cascade glaciers and their response to climate change over the next three weeks (that means no new posts until Aug. 20).  In 1984 the program was initiated to study the impacts of climate change across an entire mountain range, instead of on just one glacier. …

New Paper Shows Global Climate Model Errors are Significantly Less Than Thought

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 4:01pm
Imagine I look at a numerical weather model forecast that predicts the temp. at 5 PM the next day, will be 30C where I live. The next day, I go out at 5 PM and measure 29C instead. Was the model wrong? Probably, since models are just numerical representations of the atmosphere with some processes explicitly predicted, while other processes (like clouds) approximated from other model variables. There is also …

Sols 1061-1063: Sample dropoff to CheMin

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 3:00am
This morning, the MSL operations team was very happy to see that drilling into Buckskin was successful!  The weekend plan therefore has more arm activities, including transferring the sample to the scoop for inspection.  But first, the ChemCam RMI will take pictures of the new drill hole and Mastcam will image a potential location for eventually dumping the sample.  The sample will be sieved and a portion of the fine-grained …

Friday fold: a return to the duplex structure in the Gastropod Limestone

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 8:07am
Some time ago, I featured as Friday fold the extraordinarily complex duplex structure to be seen in the Cretaceous “gastropod limestone” member of the Kootenai Formation at Sandy Hollow, Montana. Today, let’s take a deeper look through a couple of hand-shot GigaPan images: Here’s the bigger of the two: [gigapan src=”,hidetitle/iframe/flash.html” height=”250″ scrolling=”no” width=”100%”] link Here’s one with students for scale: [gigapan src=”,hidetitle/iframe/flash.html” height=”250″ scrolling=”no” width=”100%”] link

Nepal landslides: over 30 killed yesterday in Kaski and Myagdi

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 4:31am
Heavy rainfall triggered landslides on Wednesday night in Central Nepal, killing at least 35 people. Worst affected were Kaski and Myagdi districts

Lednik Midagrabin Retreat, Caucasus, Russia

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 2:59pm
Lednik Midagrabin is a large glacier draining northwest from Gora Dzhimara in North Ossetia, Russia.  Stokes et al (2006)  examined Caucasus glaciers during the 1985-2000 period and found that 94% of the glaciers have retreated, 4% exhibited no overall change and 2% advanced. The mean retreat rate is 8 m/year, with the largest glacier retreating the fastest. Shahgedanova et al (2009) observed that the retreat was driven by a large rise in summer …

Stromatolites of the Helena Formation, Grinnell Glacier Cirque, Montana

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 2:51pm
My favorite place to have lunch in Montana is at the Grinnell Glacier cirque in Glacier National Park. This is the dining room table: You’re looking at a bedding-plane-parallel exposure of Mesoproterozoic stromatolites here. Every few years, I’m lucky enough to hike up there with motivated students and share food atop this unparalleled view into the shallow seas of more than a billion years ago. Stromatolites are sedimentary structures that …

Sol 1060: GO for drilling!

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 1:00pm
By Lauren Edgar It’s another exciting day on Mars!  Curiosity is investigating some high-silica targets at an outcrop named “Lion.”  The team selected the “Buckskin” target to drill, and we successfully completed a mini drilling test yesterday (shown in the above MAHLI image).  That means that today we’re going for the FULL drill hole. Today’s plan is focused on the drilling activity, and a lot of imaging to document the …

USGS- The Chesapeake Bay Region Is Sinking While The Sea Rises

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 6:53pm
Sea level is rising rapidly around the Chesapeake Bay. Faster actually, than nearly any other place on the East Coast of North America, and only a few spots along the Gulf Coast are recording a faster rate. The reason has been suspected for quite a while, but now a new study published in the journal of the Geological Society of America has confirmed the cause, and the news is not good. …

Sol 1059: Drill Testing and Analyzing "Ch-paa-qn"

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 1:00pm
Today the main event is a “mini-start hole”, which is the name for a new type of initial drilling test that we are trying out on the target “Buckskin”. This test will drill a small hole in the rock to help determine whether it is safe to go ahead with the full hole. In addition to that test, we are planning a detailed study of the target “Ch-paa-qn” which means …

Dusty comet releases mysterious clumps

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 9:29am
Images of an unusually dusty comet have revealed strange streaming clumps that could hold the secrets to how comets create their beautiful, sweeping, striated tails. Comet C/2011 L4 barged into the research of solar physicist Nour E. Raouafi when he was studying the sun using images from the SECCHI/HI-1 telescope aboard the solar-observing spacecraft STEREO-B.

Positively-weathering volcanic dike near Granby, Colorado

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 8:50am
My friend Barbara am Ende sent along this lovely image of a dike in Colorado: Here’s the site. You can see the dike in Google Earth. Dikes are fractures, filled with molten rock, which then cools and solidifies, sealing the crack shut. In this case, once it got uplifted to Earth’s surface and exposed, the dike rock is tougher (more resistant to weathering) that the older rock it cut across. …

Two wonderful new landslide videos, one from Taiwan and one from Japan

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 3:32am
In the last 24 hours two tremendous new landslide videos have appeared online, one from Japan and one from Taiwan

Sol 1057-1058: Getting Ready to Drill Buckskin

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:00pm
The “bump” over the weekend was successful, so we are right where we want to be to attempt drilling at “Buckskin” in the “Lion” area. I was on duty as ChemCam sPUL (science payload uplink lead) today, and it was a fun day to be on duty. Sometimes it can be stressful trying to make sure that all the settings are correct and that the instrument will be safe, but …

Millboro Formation shale in outcrop and in hand sample

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:08am
Another site from the GMU sedimentology field trip in April: An outcrop on Route 33 in Brandywine, West Virginia, showing the Millboro Formation. It’s mostly shale, with some intriguing sandstones, too. There are fossils and diagenetic carbonate nodules (concretions). Here’s the outcrop, the largest GigaPan I’ve taken so far (7.9 billion pixels): [gigapan src=”,hidetitle/iframe/flash.html” height=”250″ scrolling=”no” width=”100%”] link The shale itself looks… like shale. It’s fine-grained, and dark (high carbon …