Saturday, December 30, 2017

Life Changes

As life continues to evolve,...

Got married a few days ago.  Moving about 25 miles to my bride's existing home, including books, rocks, and such.  Job changes.

2018 New Year's Resolutions will give a new impetus to resume blogging.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Will be back soon.

I am not doing a mental "walkabout", just busy with daily tasks, including cleaning up remaining debris from Irma's visit last week.  Nothing major, though we were without electricity for almost three days.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Between Posts, a Brief Hiatus

When I resumed blogging on a regular basis, my intent was to blog everyday.  But life intervenes.  Nothing bad, just a social life and class preparation.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kilbournes Hole, Potrillo Volcanic Field

It has been decades since I visited Kilbournes Hole, in southern Doña Ana County, New Mexico.  It and its companion Hunts Hole (less-developed and to the East) are both defined as Quaternary "Maar" volcanoes.  These two craters are within the southern part of the Potrillo Volcanic Field.  Maar volcanoes form when rising magma encounters surface water or a shallow aquifer, resulting in a series of phreatic (steam explosions), which "blow a hole in the ground".

In this case, a southwest-extending "tongue" of the existing Afton Basalts overlay the site of the steam explosions.  Without the pre-existing basalt flows, the rim of the maar would likely have been more subtle, as is the rim of Hunts Hole.  The surface "host" consists of lightly-consolidated Quaternary basin and fluvial clastics, e.g, Camp Rice Fm. 

The basalt flows in the middle ground of the photo are the Quaternary Afton Basalts, slightly older than the previously discussed Aden Basalts.

Unusual for basaltic eruptions, the phreatic explosions pulverized the lavas and with the help of prevailing winds, deposited cross-bedded, Base Surge Ash beds, primarily on the east side of the maar.   

Other "Geologic Toys" scattered about the exterior of Kilbournes Hole are numerous "Volcanic Bombs", many containing Mantle Xenoliths, primarily of Olivine and Enstatite.  This particular Xenolith is about 5 - 6 inches across the largest dimension.

[I may add some additional notes, later.]

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aden Volcanic Field

Aden Volcanic Field, it was like home for several years, while I worked on my Master's Thesis.  (This aerial photo, taken by Rollag and Associates, shows the northwestern part of the volcanic field.)  Aden Crater, a small shield volcano (approx. 2000 ft. across) is in the center left of the photo.  (The photo is oriented with North at the top.)

The Aden Basalts and associated Afton Basalts are part of the approximate 500 square miles of the Potrillo Volcanic Field, a regional feature related to the Rio Grande Rift.  The area is located in the South-central part of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, about 20 miles Southwest of Las Cruces.
The two irregular craters in the center bottom of the photo were part of my thesis project.  There were three other craters to the Northeast that were also given cursory coverage in the report.  The enigmatic craters, composed of boulder ramparts surrounding a collapsed floor, have been a source of curiosity among UT El Paso geologists since the middle 1960s.  More recent work on these types of craters in Hawaii by Tim R. Orr (USGS) yielded an explanation for their formation and gave them a name "Lava Tube Shatter Rings" (I called them "Explosion-Collapse Craters".)
Above is a photo of Quaternary-age Aden Crater, showing the typical low-profile of a basaltic Shield Volcano.  This photo was taken from one of the Lava Tube Shatter Rings within my field area.  The base of Aden Crater is about 4 miles across.  [The remainder of the photos in this post are mine, except for the aerial photo of the Lava Cone, also by Rollag and Associates.]  

The entirety of the Potrillo Volcanic Field offers a wide range of relatively-young basaltic volcanic features, e.g., Cinder Cones, Maar Volcanoes, Shield Volcanoes, Spatter Vents and Spatter Mounds, "Volcanic Bombs", "aa" and "pahoehoe" textures, Lava Cones, Lava Tubes, Columnar Jointing, Fumeroles, Ash Deposits,...(a few of which are shown here in this post.)

Outside of Aden Crater (a late-stage feature), most of the basalt flows are thought to be the result of "Fissure Eruptions".
Above and below are images of an intact Lava Cone (a miniature Shield Volcano).  The surface vent is about 6 feet across and the empty, roughly circular chamber below is about 30 feet in diameter and perhaps 20 feet deep.  This Lava Cone is unusual in that usually, once eruptions have ceased and remaining lava within have withdrawn and subsided, the cone usually collapses in upon itself. 
Another interesting feature, near the primary Lava Tube Shatter Ring (highlighted by my Thesis), was this tiny Spatter Vent, i.e., a tiny, sputtering volcano.
Within Aden Crater itself, near a subsided vent, was this Spatter Mound, shown below.  [A 5 foot long "Jacob's Staff" shows the scale.]  Usually, spatter activity is within the dying stages of a volcano's life span.

(Below) A few hundred yards East of Aden Crater are these crude Columnar-Jointed, Fissure-erupted Basalts.
[All of these photos were taken during a span of 32 - 28 years ago.  The area was and remains a Federal Wilderness Study Area, so I don't know what the current status is, vis-à-vis visits to the area.  As it is a few miles North of the Mexico Border, there might be some hazards in the area, due to smuggling, etc..  It goes without saying that when traveling in the desert, one should always carry a first aid kit, several gallons of water, local maps, etc..]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Class-Prep Tuesday

A short one-day sabbatical from blogging (on both blogs), to prepare for Physical Geology Lecture and Lab classes beginning next week.

Be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A "Twofer"

An example of an image that serves two purposes...

Differential Weathering and the "universal melding of joy and grief" for field geologists.

This is a scanned 35mm slide from 40+ years ago, somewhere on the Georgia Piedmont (revisiting that past error of not labeling slides).

Prior to eons of Chemical Weathering, (based upon texture observations and a knowledge of prevailing local rock types), this was probably an Amphibolite, with some quartz-rich intervals (including the ledge upon which the Estwing prybar is perched).

"Differential Weathering" is due to the relative difference of susceptibility to Chemical Weathering between Mafic (Fe-rich silicate minerals) vs. Quartz.  Generally speaking, the minerals "higher" on the Bowen Reaction Series (including the Fe-Mg rock-forming minerals, e.g., Pyroxenes, Amphiboles, and Biotite) are more susceptible to chemical weathering at (or near) the surface.  In other words, at a quick glance, the ledges are probably Quartz.

As for the "universal melding of joy and grief", it is reference to finding (and then losing) tools in the field.  It was the subject of a past post, from 2011.  In other words, the post included the regrets of lost hammers, prybars, chisels, handlenses,...and other items.  We usually leave these things because we are tired.  Sometimes we are so obsessed with our newfound "toys" (that we may have carried several hundred yards to the vehicles), that we don't want to make one more trip back to the area to check for tools.

The Estwing prybar in the photo had such an "experience".  I found it at a now long-forgotten locality, kept and used it for a few years, then left it somewhere else.  (The "great circle of life"?)  I hope another Geologist found it and took it home.  So, if you do find a tool in the field, say a little "prayer of empathy" for the fellow scientist that lost it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Thoughts on Traveling Alone

Over at "Itinerant Geologist" is posted some extensive thoughts about what that new blog is to be, a "travel geology blog" and the circuitous route of inspiration (40+ years).  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Geological Sights Along U.S. Hwy. 160

In northeastern Arizona, traveling eastward along U.S. Hwy 160 will get you to the town of Kayenta, the "gateway of Monument Valley".  But between U.S. Hwy 89, northeast of Flagstaff and Kayenta, there are quite a number of geological features along the way.

In this "Itinerant Geologist" post, the first two Geological sights are highlighted, as observed in June 2015, during my first Arizona journey.  The first site is of Jurassic dinosaur tracks, near Moenave and a few miles northeast are the "Elephant Feet", erosional outliers of the Jurassic Entrada Sandstone.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coming Attractions...

In an effort to differentiate the purposes and goals of these two blogs, a planned post on stratigraphy is currently in progress.

In this blog, the intent is to highlight and explain principles and definitions, while "Itinerant Geologist" is intended to offer instances and ideas of how principles and definitions can be observed and made use of, while traveling and on field trips.

[There may be some blurring of "lines", this is a "work in progress.]

Friday, August 4, 2017

Where Forrest Got Tired of Running...

Most readers recognize this place, where Forrest Gump got tired of running.  Of course there is more to Monument Valley, than just Forrest Gump.  More will be blogged about Monument Valley - a prior inhabitant of my Geo-Bucket List - later.  Details will be posted in a few days on Itinerant Geologist.

What Geology is...A Reminder

A new post at Itinerant Geologist is a reminder of what Geology is.  For too many people, upon hearing your profession, they think that your interest is simply in rocks.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What is a "Microclimate"... Part 1

 Or what is a "Micro-ecosystem" (or "Microbiome" or "Cryptobiome")?  Or perhaps a "Meso-ecosystem" or "Macro-ecosystem"?

(Am I over-thinking this?)

It is about learning about big systems (or big things) by observing little systems (little things).

Wikipedia defines "Microclimate" as: "A microclimate is a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area.  The term may refer to areas as small as a few square meters or square feet (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square kilometers or square miles."

Herein is where I quibble with this otherwise good definition, over the vague word "many" in reference to square kilometers or miles.  [This quibble as well as further descriptions of Microclimate and Micro-ecosystem characteristics will be discussed in Part 2.]

I first became aware of the concept of "Microclimate" in the 1970s, while at Georgia Southern College.  While visiting my parents' home, I observed some very small mushrooms - Coprinellus disseminatus, smaller relatives of "Parasol mushrooms" - growing within the shade of a large "Tulip Poplar" tree, at the margin of the turnaround.  [The turnaround's semi-circular outer margin was ringed with about two feet of rich soil and leaf debris.]  I also observed that the mushroom grew nowhere else in the surrounding woods.

[Back at college, while describing the observations, a friend (with double majors in Biology and Geology) explained the concept of "Microclimates".]

Woods surrounding the family homeplace were a classic Piedmont "transition forest", within the regional Temperate Deciduous Biome.  And within the shade of this large hardwood tree was the only place where the mushrooms grew.  [The "magic" of growing up on this semi-rural, partially-wooded 6.67 acre lot will be discussed in later posts.]

Within the surrounding area, dominated by a canopy of mature Loblolly Pines, with scattered Shortleaf Pines, Tulip Poplars, small Maples and Sweetgums, and a few juvenile examples of other hardwoods, the leaf coverage was open enough to allow the soil to dry somewhat between rainstorms, especially beneath the pines.

However, the Tulip Poplar's heavier leaf-coverage kept the underlying soil moist, to the benefit of the mushrooms.  So, in this case, less soil moisture (as a factor of less sunlight and lower temperatures) defined this particular "Microclimate/Micro-ecosystem.  To further illustrate this point, in June 1983, the Tulip Poplar was struck by lightning and subsequently died.  With the canopy leaf-cover gone, "Microclimate change" occurred and the small mushrooms no longer grew.

To offer further evidence of "nature's way", a few years earlier during late Summer, my Mom had collected some Black Walnuts, with the idea using them in cooking.  As time went by and other chores superceded the "walnut plan", she dumped them over the edge of the turnaround margin.  One of the walnuts sprouted and by the time of the poplar's demise, it was healthy sapling, though stunted by the lack of sunlight.  With nature's removal of leaf-cover and the human removal of the dead poplar (for safety reasons), within a few years, the Black Walnut tree had acquired early characteristics of a good "shade tree".

[Sadly, with the passage of time, natural and human events intervened.  In April 1998, a tornado took down an estimated 55% of the mature pine trees, with more lost during a subsequent ice storm in January 2000.  After my Mom's passing in late 2000, various taxes and development pressures resulted in the land's sale (along with an adjacent lot) to developers in 2002 or 2003, following which subdivision development took place.  So it goes.]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


As everything changes with nature, changes occur here, too.

There is a new "co-blog", Itinerant Geologist, with musings more about travels, field trips, and...we will see how it evolves.  It will be added to my Blog List in due time.

Hopefully, a divergence of purpose will be revealed as there is not a desire for duplication between the two blogs, though individual posts may occur on both blogs (or a post will be cross-referenced on the other blog).

[The duplication of background photos is intended to be a short-term thing, until I find another background for this blog.]  

As I haven't blogged much the last few years ("blame" Facebook, including my photos, links, and posts on "Gwinnett Geologist"), I have to relearn pertinent formats and options for both blogs.

Hopefully both will provide interesting reading.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Revisiting the Geo-Bucket List

Back on March 5, 2015, my sporadic blogging included a post of "wishes".  A significant number of "life events" have transpired since then, and in the interest of resurrecting a regular posting regimen, another look is herein taken at my "Geo-Bucket List".

As for items to collect, nothing has changed.   As then-posted:

"A decent zircon crystal, a decent topaz crystal, a complete trilobite, and a complete ammonite. A crinoid calyx with at least a portion of the column would be nice, too."

After my wife's passing on May 1, 2015 and the subsequent - but planned - move of my daughter's family from here to Glendale, AZ, the following two years provided reasons for four Georgia-to-Phoenix (and back) trips.  Two in 2015, one in 2016, and one in 2017.  (Future writing plans include photographs and "Geo-Vignettes" from these trips.)

While the trips did offer renewed opportunities to visit (or revisit) "western places" for observation and photography, as the first three were during the "heat of the summer" and the last was on a tight schedule, there weren't many collecting opportunities.  (There were plans for Mason, TX topaz collecting in 2016, but a personal error precluded that.  It will be discussed in a following post.)

So, on to the 2015 "Geo-Bucket List", these were items "checked off", even if the visits were short.  [The current intention is to provide a separate post for each one.]

[One additional thought:  "Bucket Lists" and the checking-off of items therein are personal endeavors which - when properly executed - should provide a level of personal satisfaction and confidence building.  But when these successful items are completed, they can reach a greater "value" is achieved by using them as "teachable moments" to inspire others.]

Monument Valley, AZ/UT.  Made two brief visits during June and July, 2015.   A more thorough visit was planned for July 2016, but heavy rains prevented exploring the "back country".

Grants, New Mexico basalt flows.  Made a brief photo-stops during July, 2015 and during July, 2016.

Clayton-Raton Volcanic Field, NE New Mexico.  Spent approximately a half-day in the area on Mid-July, 2015.  Lots of photos, but I was still learning the nuances of DSLR cameras.

Sunset Crater, Flagstaff, AZ area.  
Visited area for a few hours in Mid-July, 2015.

Arches National Park, Moab, UT area.  Revisited in 2016.  Spent half a day, conquering the "photo demons" that caused the jamming of my camera shutter during 1977 and 1979 visits.

Vicksburg, MS loess.   Stopped and found a suitable outcrop, Late-July, 2015.  Collected samples and got photos.  I finally got to touch the stuff.

More geo-musings to follow.