Sternberg Museum Talk: Geology of the National Parks I: Igneous Rocks

Sternberg PteradonLast Friday I had the opportunity to present a talk at the Sternberg Museum on “The Geology of the National Parks” focusing on igneous rocks in a couple of the National Parks and Monuments along the Pacific Rim of the USA. Steaming VolcanoThe talk (podcast: 80 Mb mp3) was presented as a combination of PowerPoint (slides: 43 Mb ppt), Google Earth (placemarksGoogle Earth Placemark: requires GE), and a couple of QTVR panoramas (Alae Crater site and Pu’u O’o – Hawai’i Volcanoes NP; El Capitan Meadow and Washburn Point – Yosemite NP). It was a challenge juggling all that technology – particularly switching back and forth between mediums. In light of the pretty fast internet connection at the museum, I may well try to implement the whole “virtual field trip” on the web next time. I’m especially eager to test out HTML Slidy, the web-based PowerPoint killer that Jon Udell recently discovered. I’d try it now if I didn’t have so many more things to do to get ready for Field Camp…rocks and hammer

More Necking & Beer Goggling (with Google Earth Overlays)



Goosenecks of the San Juan River, June 11, 2005

Doc‘s been at it again! Posting more great air photos of the spectacular geology of the Colorado Plateau. This time he’s necking with the San Juan River.

Doc asks:

By the way, I’m wondering why Google Maps and Google Earth can’t be tied into Earth Observatory. The whole Goosenecks area (starting in the picture above and continuing west) is in low-res on Google Maps and Google Earth, yet Earth Observatory has this high-res photo.

Maybe some kind of mash-up, perhaps?

Of course, Google Earth allows you to make this sort of mash-up yourself by creating an image overlay. As easy as that is to do, if you’re working with images that were shot at any sort of an oblique angle (rather than orthophotos – shot directly overhead) you’ll quickly find that it’s impossible to get every feature to register (line up properly) if you’re working in an area with any significant topographic relief. To illustrate this, check out the Google Earth placemark/overlays of the Goosenecks regionGoogle Earth Placemark that I made with the high res image Doc references. Because the high res image is not exactly orthogonal, I was unable to make it register perfectly, so I made two overlays – one that attempts to register the river (more satisfying when using the tilt function in Google Earth) and one the attempts to register the plateau (more satisfying for overhead satellite/map views where the roads register better). I threw in the placemark for the Goosenecks cubic QTVR above, for good measure.

Makes you really appreciate the spectacular job the Google Earth folks did to get the high resolution imagery to register properly in the Grand CanyonGoogle Earth Placemark.

Wet Mittens



Monument Valley, Thunderstorm, June 11, 2005

(Note the cars for scale – no, they’re not Matchboxes!)

Gosh, Doc! How am I supposed to write my final exams when you start posting great geology air photos in the midst of my procrastination!?!

Lou Maher’s “Geology by Lightplane” airphotos are indeed a great find. Bet you didn’t know that I TAed Intro Geology for Lou my very first semester as a grad student at UW-Madison. In fact, just before I graduated I scanned a whole big batch of his slides (though I don’t think my scans are the ones that made it to his website). Small world…

I don’t think there are any “official” names for the particular canyons you asked about – at least, none that I find on the USGS topo map of the area. I don’t know the geology of The Ramp area from personal experience and I haven’t got a detailed geologic map of the area, but the best I can tell your “cookie dough” unit (gotta love those edible geology analogies!) is probably one of the big sandstone units in the Cutler Formation – quite possibly the same Canyon De Chelley sandstone that makes up the vertical cliffs of the Mittens and Merrick Butte in Monument Valley. I think the Shinarump is the lighter colored (and thinner) sandstone unit that makes up the narrow cap of The Ramp. In any case, your photos of The Ramp and its neighbors are spectacular examples of hogbacks (also known as flatirons) formed by the weathering and erosion of a monocline.

Following my two week stint with FHSU’s Geology Field Camp last year I spent about a month travelling the west and shooting all the geology photos I could get, including the shot above at Lookout Point in Monument ValleyGoogle Earth Placemark. I’m still working on stitching a lot of them into QTVRs. I won’t be travelling as far this year since I’m gonna be doing the entire 4 weeks of Field Camp this summer, but I’ve got a brand new Canon Digital Rebel XT SLR and I’m itching to get out there and put it to good use. Field Camp departs on May 22 – I’ll do my best to blog from the field like I did last year.

Right back at you, Doc! ;-)