ES 546 Field
The take-home final exam is scheduled for next week, Dec. 7-10. It may be put online Dec. 6 to give students a head start. The final exam will consist of two parts: a) abstract for one of the physiographic regions we saw on our field trip, and b) aerial or ground photograph that illustrates the geomorphology in your selected region. The exam is worth 25 points (25% of total grade).
From Gayla Corley: Take a look at this video made by Dick Turpin probably in the Pine Ridge. This is actual footage he took. There is a possibility this lion could have lived close to where my Dad was raised or his first cousin was raised. Go to Nebraska mountain lions (scroll down to videos).
At this point, student contributions for the blog will end.
|That is my grandmother's writing on the edge of the picture. This picture was taken between 1893 and 1910; my guess is probably in the 1890's. The picture traveled in a covered wagon from just southeast of Chadron in Dawes County to Mountain View, MO, then into Kansas to Anderson County. Of course I do not know the name of this butte.|
|New Gamesa wind turbines east of Waverly near K-31 highway. The wind farm is now clearly visible from I-35. Turbines are not yet operating, but some have red lights to warn aircraft. Photos © JSA.|
Reminder: there is a final take-home exam in this course, Dec. 7-10.
|Gneiss with veins of staurolite and quartz crystals. Whole stone (left) and close-up image of staurolite crystals (right). Half-dollar coin is 3 cm in diameter. Staurolite is an iron and aluminum silicate closely related to kyanite. Staurolite and kyanite are metamorphosed from original fine-grained shale and mudstone parent rocks. See staurolite.|
Staurolite is characteristic of the amphibolite metamorphic facies that formed under intermediate conditions of temperature (~600 °C) and pressure (~8 kb) for a typical continental geothermal gradient of around 30 °C/km depth. For more details, see metamorphic reactions.
Challenge: on this basis, at what depth is staurolite typically formed, and what does this suggest about the amount of vertical uplift that took place in the crystalline core of the Black Hills? Send your response by Friday, Oct. 30th for a participation bonus point.
Yesterday your instructor participated in the annual fall field trip of the Kansas Academy of Science. This year, the Red Hills was the focus for geology, biology, and human land use. We conducted kite aerial photography at Belvidere and visited a large bison ranch near Aetna.
|Overviews. Left: looking toward the northwest. Outcrops of Cheyenne Sandstone in the foreground, Thompson Creek valley in the background, and the High Plains on the far horizon. Right: view to southwest over the Medicine Lodge River valley with fields of newly planted winter wheat.|
|Close-up shots of red bedrock (Permian) and soil in the Medicine Lodge River valley below the tan/buff colored Cheyenne Sandstone (Cretaceous) of the adjacent upland. Photos © SWA &JSA.|
Note: Dusty is missing a bag of rock/mineral samples that was in the back of the van. If you took these by mistake, please return.
Reminder: Friday, October 23rd is the last day to withdraw from any full-semester course.
|Left: introduction to Nebraskan folk art at Carhenge near Alliance. Right: conducting kite aerial photography at Smith Lake in the Sand Hills, Sheridan County. Kite flyers in lower right corner.|
|Looking southward (left). Smith Lake is fed by Pine Creek draining through a broad valley with numerous lakes. View toward the east (right); a second kite flown by Justin Abel in visible near the bottom.|
|View westward (left) showing windbreaks of cedar (green) and deciduous trees around the lake. Looking to the southwest (right). A curious line of cedar trees meanders across small blow-out dunes.|
|Students pose on a collapsed sandstone block (left) and expore strata of the White River Group (right) at Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grassland near Crawford, Nebraska.|
|Left: conducting kite aerial photography from the campground at Toadstool Geologic Park. Kite flyers on right side. Right: looking eastward over the White River Badlands.|
|Left: overview of the exposed White River Group strata in the foreground with the Pine Ridge in the far left background. Right: close-up shot of rock exposures and a meandering steam channel. Note person on path in lower right corner.|
|At the entrance to Wind Cave National Park (left), and observing an outcrop of garnet-bearing schist at Custer, SD (right).|
|Left: typical expression of granite outcrops as needle- or steeple-like pinnacles at Hood Tunnel, near Mt. Rushmore. Right: entry walkway to Mt. Rushmore.|
Remember: meet at 6:30 am in in the north parking lot next to the Wildlife & Parks office for our departure on Wednesday morning (see below for details). Latest long-range weather forecast calls for sunny, clear sky and no rain with high temps in the 60s and low temps in the 30s F. Any questions, contact your instructor.
From Alan Peterson: The campground in the Black Hills where the large black tourmalines can be found is Blue Bell Campground. From the campground go north and west. Not very far, ~100 m.
From Gayla Corley: The Hudson-Meng Buffalo Kill Site is very near the Toadstool Park. Originally discovered by a bulldozer operator digging a pond. The landowner saw what was found and stopped the digging and notified someone about the kill site. It's a Paleo-Indian hunting site. It closes Oct. 1st, so we will not get to see it, but an interesting place to go. I've been there twice. Once before the building was constructed and once since it was constructed.
Instructor's note: Larry Agenbroad conducted the initial investigations at both the Hudson-Meng site and the Hot Springs mammoth site in the 1970s. He was a professor at Chadron State College at the time, but soon after moved on to the University of Northern Arizona. Although trained in hydrogeology, he became world famous as a mammoth expert. He was my immediate predecessor at Chadron State College.
At CSP we have both sides of a duplex unit (105/106) that is fully furnished with bedding, towels and kitchen equipment. Ladies (5) will be take one side of the duplex, and men (6) will have the other side. Each side has two queen beds, and we will bring extra cots. Students sleeping on cots should bring their own sleeping bags and pillows. Free WiFi is available, although slow. Note: western Nebraska and South Dakota are in the mountain time zone.
Breakfast and lunch each day will be provided for students to prepare from food we bring. We will do a cookout one evening at CSP, but other dinners will be at restaurants (students pay individually). Let your instructor know about any special food restrictions. Bottled water will be provided; any other beverage is up to individual students. No alcoholic beverages are allowed in state vehicles (van and trailer). Likewise no tobacco use in the van or duplex.
What to bring:
Sunday, Oct. 18 is again a travel day returning to ESU. Campus arrival time is likely 6-7 pm. Contact your instructor via email or phone (620-340-5984) with any further questions, comments, or concerns regarding the field trip.
From Bryan Longwell: Evidence of an ancient mega-tsunami has been found on Santiago Island in the Cape Verde Islands off Africa. Scientists estimate that the event occured about 73,000 years ago, and estimate the wave to be around 800 feet tall!
Reminder: the field-trip fee is due by the end of the month. Note: your instructor will be away from campus Sept. 30 through Oct. 5th, conducting field work in Colorado, so the fee must be paid by Sept. 29th.
From Jason Hart: I thought this was neat. The second image on this page is a map of the continental United States made up of different military camouflages chosen to reflect the predominant biomes. If nothing else, someone could use this to plan a cross-country hunting trip.
|Construction continues at the Ad Astra Wind Farm near Waverly, KS. The turbines are visible from I-35 east of Emporia. Partial and complete turbines (left). Blades assembled on the ground, ready to lift into position (right). Photos © J.S. Aber.|
From Gayla Corley: Don't know if we will see Rushmore or not, but here is an interesting article about the Black Hills and Rushmore. Go to Mount Rushmore. [instructor's note: yes, Mt. Rushmore is on our itinerary.]
|From Mark Brown: The record from the Chilean earthquake as recorded here at our seismograph in Middletown, PA. Now I know why I was awake ... I was sensing the P-wave.|
Recently your instructor conducted kite aerial photography at Cheyenne Bottoms, which is the premier wetland site in Kansas, located in Barton County near the center of the state. This is a long-term project that began in 2002 to document changing environmental conditions, particularly in terms of water bodies and wetland vegetation, in the Nature Conservancy marsh complex. For more background, go to Cheyenne Bottoms.
|Overview toward the northwest (left) with Hoisington in the far background. Already early autumn colors are beginning to appear. Looking to the northeast (right) with the small delta of Deception Creek entering a pool from the top of view.|
|Large white birds, possibly cattle egrets, taking off (left). Note their shadows on the water surface. Your instructor testing a camera rig before flight (right). A battery failure was quickly corrected with a spare battery. Photos © J.S. Aber.|
Cheyenne Bottoms is a large natural depression of uncertain origin (see cgp_chap03.pdf). Cretaceous strata of the Smoky Hills form the bedrock rim around three sides of Cheyenne Bottoms, and the fourth side is blocked by unconsolidated alluvial and wind-blown sandy sediment.
Challenge: What are the possible geological origins for the large topographic basin at Cheyenne Bottoms? Provide and briefly described three different and plausible ways in which this depression may have formed. Send your answer by Thursday, Sept. 24 for a bonus point.
Contact your instructor if you want to volunteer to sleep on a cot. Likewise, please inform of any special dietary or medical situations. All students should bring their health insurance information (required). We will be living and touring at moderate elevations, 3000-6000 feet. Now is the time to pay the $100 fee, if you have not done so already.
Our tentative itinerary includes one day in the Nebraska Sand Hills, one day in the Pine Ridge and White River Badlands, and one day in the Black Hills, but this is subject to change depending on weather conditions. We will hope for delightful fall weather, but early snow is a possibility.
The Polish term for beautiful autumn weather is babie lato. What does this actually mean, and how would we say this in U.S. English? Send your answer by Wednesday, Sept. 16, for a participation bonus point.
From Gayla Corley: Here is a paper on the lower Platte Drainage. I was particularly looking at the maps showing the drainage of the State of Nebraska and how much of the state is drained by the Platte River. The maps are on Pages 1, 11, and 21 are what I found particularly interesting.
The Coughlen Natural Area lies on the boundary between the Flint Hills and Osage Cuestas. Underlying bedrock is mainly shale with thin limestone beds, soil is thin, and hills have moderate slopes, all of which promote rapid runoff and flash flooding in small drainage basins.
Reminder: All students are expected to contribute to this blog.
Reminder: answers for the second challenge (below) are due by tomorrow.
Note: your instructor will be away from campus Sept. 2-7 conducting field work in Colorado. He will continue online/email contact, however. Have a good Labor Day!
In particular, the Ad Astra Wind Farm occupies the drainage divide between the Neosho and Marais des Cygnes river systems, which are parts of the larger Arkansas and Missouri basins respectively. In other words, this is the divide between the two largest drainage basins in Kansas. The site is, thus, the highest point in the local topography for many miles in all directions, which is extremely favorable for wind energy. Annual average wind speed at 80 m height is 7.5-8.0 m/s (go to KS wind map).
|Delivery and unloading of wind turbine components continues at the Emporia BNSF depot. Overview (left). The size of nacelles is indicated by the pickup truck on right side. Nacelles sit on the tops of towers and house the equipment that generates electricity. Right: close-up shot of crane loading nacelle onto a special oversize-load truck trailer.|
As this example demonstrates, geomorphlogy has significant implications for human land use. Challenge extra: what physiographic regions in Kansas have the greatest potential for wind energy (>8.0 m/s average annual wind)? Send your answer by Friday, Sept. 4th for another bonus point.
From Gayla Corley: here is a website with a slide show of setting up a wind turbine tower at Milford, Utah from the Bureau of Land Management.
Recently your instructor conducted kite aerial photography (KAP) at ESU's Coughlen Natural Area and the adjacent Kansas Turnpike in southwestern Lyon County. Most of the site is underlain by the Johnson Shale. The Glenrock Limestone Member of the Red Eagle Limestone crosses the northern margin of the site. As a stratigraphic note, the Glenrock marks the uppermost Pennsylvanian (Carboniferous) unit in the currently accepted stratigraphy for Kansas (go to KGS strat chart).
|Geologic map of the Coughlen Natural Area (black box) and surroundings. Coughlen area is approximately the NW¼, NW¼, sec. 17, T20S, R10E. Lyon County Road B borders the western side, and the Kansas Turnpike forms its southeastern edge. Glenrock Limestone Member (G) and Howe Limestone Member (H) of the Red Eagle Limestone. Map adapted from KGS Lyon County. |
This vicinity is subject to flash floods which led to deaths of six motorists on the Kansas Turnpike in 2003 and another fatality in July of this year. Short-lived, but highly energetic floods have significant impact in terms of upstream erosion, transportation, and downstream deposition of sediment. Such flooding is the primary geomorphic agent in the uplands of eastern Kansas nowadays.
Challenge: In what physiographic region is the Coughlen Natural Area? Consider why this immediate vicinity is so flood prone. What combination of geomorphic conditions contribute to the potential for flooding along this segment of the Kansas Turnpike? Send your answer by Friday (Sept. 4) for a class participation bonus point.
Reminder: tomorrow is the deadline for responding to the wind-farm challenge (see below). A new landscape challenge will be put online next week.
Note: NASA Space Grant student positions are available immediately for the Science and Math Education Center (SMEC) and Peterson Planetarium. Check with Susie Aber (SH 177) for details.
|Map of the Waverly vicinity, northeastern Coffey County. The Ad Astra Wind Farm is spread over several square miles south and west of Waverly. Early phase of construction can be seen easily from old highway 50. Adapted from Google Maps.|
|Offloading wind turbine components from special railroad cars in the Emporia BNSF depot (left). Note the strongly curved shape of blades (right). These are Gamesa G114 2.0 MW turbines from Spain. A total of 95 turbines would provide a nominal generating capacity of 190 MW (see KEIN).|
EDP Renewables (EDPR) developed and will operate the Ad Astra Wind Farm, and Blattner Energy is doing the construction. EDPR is a Spanish company that operates wind farms around the world including the Meridian Way Wind Farm near Concordia in north-central Kansas.
|Overview of wind-farm construction (left) amid hay fields. The meteorological tower on the right is a standard fixture in all large wind farms for evaluation of wind speed and turbine performance. Access road (right) with tower segments laid out for installation. Photos © J.S. Aber.|
|Close-up view (left) of construction site with two cranes for lifing tower segments into position on a concrete base. Signage (right) is posted for all roads and hazards within the contruction area. 34-kV is a standard voltage for U.S. distribution lines, in this case serving Waverly along old highway 50.
Challenge: Consider the geomorphic situation for the Ad Astra Wind Farm. What physiographic region is this? Examine maps of the vicinity including drainage, topography, geology, etc. Identify the major geomorphic feature that makes this site especially suitable for wind energy. Briefly explain the geomorphic setting and why this is ideal for a wind farm. Send your answers by Friday next week (Aug. 28) for a class participation bonus point.
We have full enrollment and a waiting list for students in the course. The special fee of $100 is due by the end of September to keep your place on the field trip.
|A plume of steam rises from a boiling lake in the crater of Nakadake (left), one of several central volcanoes in the Aso caldera. Ignimbrite (right) is a mix of lava and reworked clasts from an explosive eruption in which a large magma chamber drained and caldera collapsed.|
|Sakurajima active volcano overview (left) and close-up (right). Sakurajima was an island in Kagoshima Bay until the major 1914 eruption, when a lava flow connected it to Kyushu. The red structure is designed to slow down a landslide or lahar.|
|Geothermal energy at Yamagawa. High-temperature geothermal power plant (left). Following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of 2011, Japan has decided to put greater emphasis on solar, wind, and geothermal power sources. Former salt production (right), where boiling seawater was used to make salt (1944-64).|
|Reconstruction of thatch houses from the earliest Jomon culture at Uenohara (left). Dated by tephra to ~10,600 years ago. Excavation underway (right) in advance of highway construction. Site displays multiple tephras from Sakurajima as well as the Kikai-Akahoya ash (7,300 years old).|
|Oni-no-iwaya burial mound (left) surrounded by circular moat and wall dates from the sixth century AD. One of more than 300 mounds of various types and ages at Saitobaru. Stone-lined entrance (right) to the burial chamber. The passage is about 1 m high.|
Right: abstract of poster presentation.
|Left: Nagoya convention center. INQUA participants arriving for the opening ceremony. Right: commuter train crossing a bridge over a canal in the central city.|
|Left: eastern coast of Jutland, Denmark facing the Kattegat Sea. Low-energy environment displays intricate patterns in emergent and submerged sand bars, tidal pools, and related features. Right: island of Vormsi, Estonia facing the Baltic Sea. High-energy beach of limestone gravel mixed with glacial erratics. Photos © JSA & SWA.|
|Left: Little River and Laudholm beach on the Atlantic coast of Maine. River meanders and salt-marsh are protected behind the barrier beach. Right: Point Piedras Blancas along the Big Sur coast of California. Juvenile northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are resting on a bed of seaweed. Most of 2-2.5 m long.|
After the congress, we will go on a field trip to view active volcanoes in the southern island of Kyushu. See post-congress excursions—scroll down to PO-13. Again, the emphasis is on landforms associated with recent volcanic eruptions.
Note: internet connection and email contact may be sporatic during the period July 25 to August 12, but I will attempt to put some pictures on the blog from the congress and field trip.
|Dry Lake full of water, early summer 2015, view toward northeast. The milky water color reflects suspended sediment stirred up from the shallow lake floor by wind-driven waves. Kite airphoto © J.S. and S.W. Aber. For more information, see Dry Lake, Kansas.|
The geomorphic origin of the enclosed drainage basin remains obscure. It could involve a combination of subsurface solution and fault movement, particularly within gypsum members of the Blaine Formation, as well as sand dune activity that has blocked its outlet to the east.
During the past two years, drought conditions in central and western Kansas have diminished from extreme and exceptional categories. May of 2015 was exceptionally wet across the southern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions (see statewide precipitation). In fact, May 2015 was the wettest month for the whole United States since records began in 1895 (NOAA 2015). By late June 2015, drought was completely gone in the Dry Lake vicinity (see drought monitor).
Return to field geomorphology syllabus.
ES 546 © J.S. Aber (2015).