The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Alaska Volcano Observatory

The US Geological Survey operates five volcano observatories, which keep watch on regions of volcanic activity in the United States. The five observatories are for the Cascades, Hawaii, Yellowstone, Long Valley (in California) and Alaska. My web site of the week is for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Here’s a description of the Alaska volcanoes from the AVO site:

Alaska contains over 100 volcanoes and volcanic fields which have been active within the last two million years. Over 40 of these have been active in historic time. These volcanoes make up about 80% of all active volcanoes in the United States and 8% of all active above-water volcanoes on earth.

Most of these volcanoes are located along the 2,500 km-long (1,550 mile-long) Aleutian Arc, which extends westward to Kamchatka and forms the northern portion of the Pacific “ring of fire”. Other volcanoes which have been active within the last few thousand years exist in southeastern Alaska and in the Wrangell Mountains. Smaller volcanoes, some active within the last 10,000 years, exist in interior Alaska and in western Alaska as far north as the Seward Peninsula.

Hardly a year goes by without a major eruption from a volcano in the Aleutian Arc. Eruptions in the largely unpopulated western arc often go unremarked by all but volcanologists. The remote volcanoes are potentially hazardous, as jet airplanes which enter eruption clouds often are severely damaged, and sometimes lose all engines temporarily. There are more than 70,000 large aircraft per year, and 20,000 people per day, in the skies over Aleutian volcanoes, mostly on the heavily travelled great-circle routes between Europe, North America and Asia. Volcanoes in the eastern arc, especially those from Cook Inlet volcanoes, can have severe impacts. The series of 1989-1990 eruptions from Mt. Redoubt was the second-most costly in the history of the United States, and had significant impact on the aviation and oil industries, as well as the people of the Kenai Peninsula. The three eruptions of Mt. Spurr’s Crater Peak in 1992 deposited ash on Anchorage and surrounding communities, closing airports and making even ground transportation difficult, and disrupted air traffic as far east as Cleveland, Ohio. The 1912 Katmai eruption, which formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on the Alaska Peninsula was the largest 20th century eruption on earth.

I chose this site because it has a wealth of great pictures and high-resolution topographic maps:

Fourpeaked Mountain, currently at YELLOW status (USGS AVO)

Kaguyak Volcano (C. Nye, USGS AVO)

Augustine Volcano (C. Read, USGS AVO)

Ukinrek Maars (J. Kienle)

Augustine Volcano (M. Coombs, USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Kaguyak Volcano (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Mt. Edgecumbe (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Nuschkolik Mtn. (USGS AVO)

Grace and Peace

September 30, 2006 Posted by | Geology, Web Site of the Week | 2 Comments

More Climate Change

More on climate change:

Christianity Today has posted an article on climate change: Cool on Climate Change. The article highlights the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. The opening paragraphs of the article read:

A new coalition argues Christians need not heed warnings that millions will die from human-induced global warming and says we should seek more practical ways to help the world’s poor.

Human emissions of carbon dioxide are not the main cause of global warming, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) said in a document released in July. The ISA, a loosely affiliated group of more than 130 theologians, scientists, policy analysts, and others, said the consequences of global warming for the poor have been exaggerated.

Activities that produce carbon dioxide—such as “breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, driving a car or tractor, or burning coal to produce electricity … [are] morally good and necessary activities that God intended for us,” said Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary. “It seems very unlikely to me that God would have set up the earth to work in such a way that these good and necessary activities would actually destroy the earth.”

The ISA is responding to the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s February statement “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” signed by 97 evangelical leaders. The statement claimed that “[m]illions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.”

This is from the other side of the global warming debate from yesterday’s post. I skimmed the longer report called A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming, and was pleased to see that it seems to avoid the distortions of science that plague much of the Evangelical/Conservative discussion of global warming and climate change.

I’m still riding on the fence on this one, but again I’ll say that I’m pleased to see Evangelicals thinking about environmental issues.

Grace and Peace

September 28, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Global Warming Report (Part 2)

My friend Glenn Brooke has written further thoughts regarding my post “Global Warming Report.” Read it here.

Grace and Peace

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

The Face on Mars

In 1976, the Viking 1 orbiter took a picture of a feature on Mars that had the appearance of a human face. Some people went from “It looks like a human face; isn’t that interesting” to “It must have been constructed by aliens!”

In 2001, the NASA Mars Global Surveyer took better resolution images of the feature, showing clearly that it is indeed a natural feature. However, the “face on Mars” people dismissed this as a cover-up or conspiracy.

An even better image has just been released, taken by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. I’m convinced that this is natural. Some people will never be convinced.

Viking 1 image, 1976, NASA (The “Face on Mars” is upper center)

Mars Global Surveyer, 2001, NASA

Mars Express, 2006, ESA

Yahoo news article

Astronomy Picture of the Day 9/25/2006

Wikipedia article

Grace and Peace

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

Global Warming Report

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has published an article on global temperature change. Here is the abstract:

Global surface temperature has increased ~0.2°C per decade in the past 30 years, similar to the warming rate predicted in the 1980s in initial global climate model simulations with transient greenhouse gas changes. Warming is larger in the Western Equatorial Pacific than in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the past century, and we suggest that the increased West-East temperature gradient may have increased the likelihood of strong El Niños, such as those of 1983 and 1998. Comparison of measured sea surface temperatures in the Western Pacific with paleoclimate data suggests that this critical ocean region, and probably the planet as a whole, is approximately as warm now as at the Holocene maximum and within ~1°C of the maximum temperature of the past million years. We conclude that global warming of more than ~1°C, relative to 2000, will constitute “dangerous” climate change as judged from likely effects on sea level and extermination of species.

To summarize this even further:

  • The Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.6°C (about 1°F) in 30 years.
  • Warming of the Pacific is occurring in such a way to make strong El Niños more frequent.
  • The Earth’s temperature is as warm as it has been any time in the past 1,000,000 years.
  • Continued warming will bring the Earth’s temperature up to levels that existed in the Pliocene (prior to the Pleistocene, in which the Earth has experienced periodic extensive glaciations).
  • Global warming of 2-3°C would bring temperatures to Pliocene levels, when sea level was on the order of 25 m (80 feet) higher than they are today. [note: the report does not suggest this order of sea level rise in the coming century].

Many conservatives dismiss this as a bunch of baloney. I haven’t made a decision yet, but the seriousness of the topic mandates an intense effort of study by Christians in a variety of scientific disciplines.

Yahoo news article

Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences article

Grace and Peace

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Scientists on money

Most scientists aren’t in it for the money, but some of them end up on banknotes. I got these from a page called Banknotes Featuring Scientists and Mathematicians.





Grace and Peace

September 23, 2006 Posted by | Fun | Leave a comment

Name that element

We’re doing elements and atomic theory in Chemistry right now. Sometimes I give my students worksheets, and sometimes I give them “funsheets.” I tell them that all worksheets are funsheets, but they aren’t convinced yet.

Here’s a funsheet. You may need a periodic table or a list of the elements to help with some of these.

Provide the name for the element:

Clue Element
1. joint between upper and lower leg neon
2. mother’s sister’s cash _________________
3. native of North America _________________
4. to endure hardship or injury _________________
5. where you wash dishes _________________
6. foolish prisoner _________________
7. policeman _________________
8. to press laundry _________________
9. I sit down and eat _________________
10. Yosemite National Park is here _________________
11. Lone Ranger’s horse _________________
12. Canis lupus _________________
13. I am sneezing and have a runny nose. I have a _________________
14. a flower _________________
15. I drink pop, but people in other parts of the country say _________________
16. the Good __________ _________________
17. parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme _________________
18. the chair is on the __________ _________________
19. _______ on the range _________________
20. _______ of Arabia _________________
21. dull chemistry lesson* _________________
22. bile is stored in the ________ bladder _________________
23. European country _________________
24. another European country _________________
25. five cents _________________
26. 50 percent _________________
27. what doctors do _________________
28. what morticians do _________________
29. what cowboys did on horses _________________
30. Carpe diem. _________ the day. _________________

*doesn’t exist in nature

For the answers, continue reading:

Continue reading

September 23, 2006 Posted by | Chemistry, Fun | Leave a comment

Coming to a tight parking spot near you!

How about a car whose length is just a little longer than a Hummer is wide? How about being able to park two cars in a single parallel parking spot, by pulling into the space with the nose of the car against the curb? That’s the Smart Car; a somewhat common car on the streets of Europe that may be coming to the U.S. in 2007.

Image from Wikipedia

Some quotes from a Business Week Europe article:

Smart has lost around $5 billion since it was launched in 1998 as a joint venture with watchmaker Swatch.

The car is is best known for being so small that European drivers often park nose-to-curb, also squeezing the five-foot wide vehicles into the sort of odd and improbably tight spaces that make U.S. tourists stop and stare. The current version contains an 800cc three-cylinder diesel engine that can hit speeds of 135 kilometers per hour and consumes 4.7 liters per 100 kilometers in city driving and 3.6 liters per 100 kilometers on highways.

3.6 liters per 100 km is about 66 miles per gallon (Europeans express mileage as how many liters are consumed per 100 km, not as kilometers per liter).

They’re cute. They appeal to my desire to be non-consumptive. But is it “smart” to drive one of these in the land of Hummers and SUVs? (And being that they only seat two, I won’t be driving a Smart Car here in the land of Dacias and Trabants any time soon).

Grace and Peace

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Energy, Environment | Leave a comment

The one who caused chaos and strife

2003 UB313 finally has a name, and thankfully it is not named “Xena.” Because it is larger than Pluto, this distant object threw the world of astronomy into chaos when it was discovered, eventually leading to the downgrading of Pluto to the lowly status of “dwarf planet.”

The International Astronomical Union has decided on the name “Eris” for this icy body. Eris, appropriately, was the Greek goddess of chaos and strife.

Grace and Peace

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

Arctic sea ice

According to NASA, Arctic sea ice is melting at an accelerating rate.

NASA image. Yellowish areas of the ocean were covered
with winter ice a few years ago, but are now open water

Global warming is certainly occuring. Is it human-induced? Is it part of a natural cycle? I don’t know, but the questions are not to be lightly dismissed.

I’ll let you know when I have it all figured out.

NASA story

Yahoo!News story

Grace and Peace

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Barney the Dinosaur meets Jöns Jakob Berzelius

A few years ago while teaching about element symbols in Chemistry, this song just popped into my head:

Jöns Jakob Berzelius
Words by Kevin Nelstead, Bucharest Christian Academy
Sung to the tune of “John Jacob Jingelheimer Schmidt”

John Jakob Berzelius
His symbols are our symbols too
When sodium we talk about
“N-A” we will shout
Thanks to John Jacob Berzelius
Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

Just a fun little tune to brighten up my lecture a bit.

In the early 1800s, Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzellius invented the symbols we now use for the elements, such as C for carbon, Mg for magnesium, and Na for sodium (from Latin natrium). Before that time, a variety of symbols were used for elements and compounds. The following chemical symbols are from A Short History of Chemistry by J.R. Partington (1989, 3rd edition, Dover Publications, pp. 174-176).

Grace and Peace

September 6, 2006 Posted by | Chemistry, Fun | 1 Comment

New Gulf of Mexico Oil Field

Chevron has announced the discovery of an oil field off the coast of Louisiana that could rival the Prudhoe Bay field (Alaska North Slope) in size. This does not mean that the United States will soon have a source of cheap petroleum: the well was drilled in 7000 feet of water, down to a total depth of 28,000 feet below sea level, and the field will cost billions of dollars to develop over the next few years.

The bottom line is that even if the reserves of the field are at the upper limit of estimates—around 15 billion barrels—it contains less than a three year supply for the United States. We will continue to be dependent on oil from overseas (unstable places like Venezuela, Nigeria, and the Middle East). For the sake of national security, the U.S. must have an energy policy that emphasizes conservation and alternative energy sources.

Even aside from national security, the Biblical mandate to be stewards of the Earth ought to be driving us towards conservation.

NASA image of an offshore oil rig

The news story can be found at:


International Herald Tribune

Grace and Peace

September 6, 2006 Posted by | Energy, Geology | Leave a comment

The Inner Life of the Cell

Web site of the week: “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

This site has a computer animation of the inner workings of a white blood cell. Absolutely amazingboth in terms of the animation, and the processes it portrays. It is a testimony to the wisdom and power of the Creator.
I got this link from my biochemist friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

Image from the movie “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

The movie is also on YouTube.

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Chemistry, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment