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20 September 2019

This is an ex-eruption!

Recently, as chronicled in Scientific American, I was involved with amending the eruptive record at California’s Mount Shasta to remove an eruption that was supposedly seen by a French mapping expedition in 1786. USGS researchers had already been puzzling over it for years – evidence was slim, since the area was already prone to forest fires and there was nothing in the geologic record to suggest that it happened. William …


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9 May 2014

Edinburgh: Visiting Rosslyn Chapel

On my last day in Edinburgh, Dr. Caco and I took a bus ride south of the town to Roslin. Those of you who are Dan Brown fans might remember the last scenes of The Da Vinci Code movie, where the two heroes end their search for the Holy Grail ” at Rosslyn Chapel.


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6 April 2014

Edinburgh: Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags and Hutton’s Section

On the last day of my visit to Scotland, my advisor and her husband (both former UB volcanology folks) took me on a hike to Holyrood Park to visit Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s volcano.


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23 March 2014

Edinburgh: Old Town and older volcanoes

My PhD advisor relocated to Scotland last year, and I finally had a chance to visit her in Edinburgh. And wow, what a great place for a geologist to go!


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25 March 2012

Geologist’s bookshelf: Older offerings

I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to books, especially geological ones. I’ve got quite a few that I’ve collected but never really had time to read. (When you read journal articles at work all day, sometimes you really don’t want to read about more geology when you go home. Because I also have a lot of fantasy and scifi books, those are what tend to end up on the bedside table instead.) More often then not, the books I collect are older, because buying a lot of new ones can get expensive when you’re on a grad student budget.


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27 October 2011

More “translating”: The 1929 dome collapse at Santiaguito

Last week I talked about “translating” eyewitness accounts of the 1902 eruption of Santa Maria in Guatemala. As all of you probably know by now, the Santiaguito lava dome complex started growing in the 1902 eruption crater in 1922. At first there was just one dome (which was called Santiaguito then and which we now call Caliente). There isn’t much in the literature about the early days of the dome growth; most of the accounts we have about the area come from German explorers Karl Sapper (an ethnographer and linguist) and Franz Termer (a professor of geography and anthropology).


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20 October 2011

“Translating” descriptions of the 1902 eruption of Santa Maria

I’ve been going through some rather old papers for the background of a manuscript I’m working on, and I’ve been finding that it’s pretty fun to read about volcanic eruptions from the perspective of early twentieth-century geologists (and non-geologists). My field area in Guatemala wasn’t considered active until Volcan Santa Maria suddenly erupted in 1902, so most people who lived there weren’t really familiar with volcanic phenomena. There weren’t any geoscientists who directly observed the eruption , but they made it to the volcano pretty quickly afterward, and collected accounts from local people to supplement their notes.

When I read these accounts, the first time through I imagine what the writers were seeing – and then the second time through I translate the account into modern terminology. One paper that this was particularly useful for is an account of the eruption written by Gustav Eisen, a Swedish PhD in biology/zoology who was living in Guatemala. Dr. Eisen is very descriptive, but to be useful for my current research, his writing needs a little interpretation. Here are some of my favorite passages, and my “translations” of Eisen’s descriptions into current terminology.


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2 December 2010

Book review: The Planet in a Pebble

One of my favorite ways of thinking about Earth science is to compare it to a crime investigation, particularly along the lines of Sherlock Holmes, where the investigator gathers minute detail into an encompassing explanation. That’s why I was intrigued when Oxford University Press approached me about reviewing a new book that they’re publishing, The Planet in a Pebble.


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20 March 2008

New developments and a little history from Kilauea

Boy, have I been sleeping on the job. Halema’uma’u Crater, in the caldera of Kilauea, experienced its first explosive eruption since 1924. Ron and Geotripper have both covered the event in their posts, and the Hawaii Volcano Observatory has some great photos of the explosion crater and the debris that was scattered by the explosion. Since I don’t want to repeat their efforts, I’ll take a look at the 1924 …


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