25 February 2008
Sleepless in Seattle
Posted by Jessica Ball
As promised, I have an update on my latest travel experience, which was out to Seattle to visit the University of Washington graduate school. Surprisingly enough, the weather was fantastic – clear for three days in a row and not even cold! I was quickly informed by the grad students that this was highly unusual and that I had, in fact, been secretly transported to an alternate universe version of Seattle. I was pretty much happy to spend my entire visit within sight of a volcano, weather or no weather. Dealing with three time zones of jet-lag was much less fun, especially since my body didn’t reset itself until I was ready to leave, but the grad students and profs at UW definitely made up for it.
Because I’ve never been on a flight to the Northwest, I was of course taking lots of photos from the plane. Unfortunately, I’m not sure exactly where I was for these, but here are a few. The first one is from somewhere over Montana vaguely near Great Falls; it’s of a beautiful ring-shaped structure next to a small mountain range. My guess is either a caldera or an impact crater, and I’m leaning toward impact crater. Anyone know for sure?
UPDATE: Ron found the feature on Google Earth and informs me that it’s the Cayuse Basin, a breached structural dome. So much for my guessing abilities.
A little further on were some nice cirques (sans glaciers, as far as I can tell):
And of course, the best part of the flight: Mount Rainier! It was clear enough to see the summit and, far off in the distance, Mount Baker (I think), but this is the best of the pictures I took.
I really enjoyed the visit to U-Dub, which has a great campus – all Gothic architecture and trees and beautiful views. This is looking back toward the library (in the center of the photo) with the Earth and Space Sciences building on the left.
This is a view from the Pike Place Market looking south toward Safeco and Qwest fields, with (of course) Rainier in the background. As I said, beautiful clear days, which are apparently not common in winter.
And of course, a visit to the Market wouldn’t be complete without a little fish-throwing:
All in all, it was a great trip, and made even better by the reception of the UW students and professors, who went out of their way to make the prospective grads feel welcome. Potlucks, personal guided tours and a seminar featuring John Clague as the guest speaker, not to mention the awesome, just-renovated facilities at the ESS building and the fact that the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network headquarters are in the basement. It was like a coolness overload for three days.
And you know, if I got to wake up and see Rainier every day, I wouldn’t even mind the rain. (Especially if it decided to erupt…)
It’s hard to see Rainier when it’s raining, though.
Your mystery “crater” looks to be the Cayuse Basin. From the view in Google Earth I’d say you’re looking at a breached structural dome – toward the edges the strata seem to be dipping away from the center. This is confirmed by the geologic map of the Belt 30×60′ Quad from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (it’s in the southeast quadrant – warning 8.3Mb PDF). Not sure, but I’d suspect it’s formed due to the intrusion of a Tertiary stock that is not yet exposed by erosion.
They have gothic architecture in a town just a bit inland from a subduction zone that can generate M 9 Earthquakes? That’s brave.
Thanks, Ron! My guessing abilities must have been scrambled by too much flying. (My advisor would be embarrassed that I didn’t think of a dome, but – as far as I know – he doesn’t read this, so I’m safe.) Yeah, Gothic architecture + subduction zone is probably not the best idea, but it looks pretty in the meantime.