GeoLog

Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology

Imaggeo on Mondays: Half dome at sunset

Imaggeo on Mondays: Half dome at sunset

Yosemite’s Half Dome stands, majestic, over a granite dominated terrain in the Yosemite Valley area;  one of the most beautiful landscapes in northern America, and arguably, the world – it is also an Earth scientist’ playground.

Stamped into the west slope of the Sierra Nevada range, the Yosemite Valley is a collection of lush forests, deep valleys, meandering rivers and streams, all punctuated by huge domes and cliffs of ancient volcanic origin.

Come and explore this part of the world and you’ll not miss Half Dome. Standing at the head of the valley, the quartz monzonite (a coarse grained orthoclase and plagioclase feldspar dominated rock) structure rises a little short of 2700 m above sea level.

Despite standing proud in the present landscape, it was once a magma chamber, buried deep below a volcano. Over a long period of time, the molten magma cooled and crystalised to form the coarse granite rock we see today. Erosion and exposure did the rest, eventually exhuming the dome and cutting deep valleys into the surrounding landscapes.

For more information on the geology of the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, please refer to these United States Geological Survey (USGS) resources:

The Geological Story of Yosemite Valley
How did Half Dome, acquire its unique shape?
Bedrock Geology of the Yosemite Valley Area

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

 

 

 

 

GeoSciences Column: Hazagora – will you survive the next disaster?

GeoSciences Column: Hazagora – will you survive the next disaster?

There is no better thing, on a cold and stormy winter’s evening, than to gather your friends for a night of games / board games. Fire blazing (if you have one), tasty snacks laid out and drinks poured, you are all set to indulge in a night of scheming (if you are playing battle ship), deceit (Cluedo), or even all out comedy (think Pictionary or Charades).

The main purpose of the games you are likely to enjoy, in the relaxed setting described above and in the company of your nearest and dearest, is to entertain. You might not be aware that in playing board games you are also boosting your cognitive, decision-making and social skills. Serious games exploit this notion in order to support learning and raise awareness of important issues, as Dr. Mirjam S. Glessmer previously wrote about in our GeoEd column. With this in mind, could a board game be used to raise awareness about the complexities of geohazards and disaster risk reduction management?

A team of Belgian researchers set out to test the idea by developing Hazagora: will you survive the next disaster? Its effectiveness as an educational tool, both for those living in disaster prone areas, as well as stakeholder and scientists involved in risk management activities, is discussed in a paper recently published in the EGU’s open access journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

Playing the game

The game is set on an island, with a central volcano surrounded by forests, agricultural lands and coastal areas. Immerse yourself in the game and you’ll have the option to embody one of five characters: the mayor, the fisherman, the lumberjack, the farmer and the tour guide.  Potential locations where players can settle, with their families, road networks and wells to provide water supply, are drawn on the board game. The board is divided into different sectors which can be affected by a geohazard. The game is led by a game master, bound to follow the Hazagora guidelines.

 Setup of the game: (a) board game; (b) character cards with from left to right: the mayor, the fisherman, the lumberjack, the farmer and the tour guide; (c) resource cards: bread, water and bricks; (d) resource dice; (e) water well and food market; (f) hut (one chip with one family), house (two chips with two families), and road; (g) cost information card for building new streets, huts, and houses and buying protection cards. Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016).

Setup of the game: (a) board game; (b) character cards with from left to right: the mayor, the fisherman, the lumberjack, the farmer and the tour guide; (c) resource cards: bread, water and bricks; (d) resource dice; (e) water well and food market; (f) hut (one chip with one family), house (two chips with two families), and road; (g) cost information card for building new streets, huts, and houses and buying protection cards. Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016).

The outcome of a natural disaster, contrary to common reporting in the media and popular belief, is not exclusively controlled by the force of the natural hazard. The livelihood profile of each of the characters in the game is specifically chosen to highlight the important role economic, social, physical and environmental circumstances play in shaping how individuals and nations are affected by geohazards. A fisherman will inevitably be limited in his choice of settlement location, as he/she is bound to live close to the coast, while at the same time his/her occupation controls its income. On a larger scale, political and socioeconomic factors mean that victims of natural hazards in developing countries, especially Asia and Africa, are more vulnerable to geohazards when compared to residents of developed nations.

Life on the island unfolds in years, with players establishing his/her family on the land by providing shelter, bread (food) and water. Income is received each round table and can be used to a) provide for the family or b) invest in further developing their settlement by adding more housing for extra families. At any given time, and without warning, the game master can introduce a natural hazard (earthquake, tsunami, lava flow, ash fall). All players watch a video clip which illustrates the hazard and outlines the impacts based on recent disasters. The players then discuss the potential damage caused by the hazard to infrastructure, resources and people involved in the game based on factors such as their geographical location relative to the disaster, economic potential and available natural resources. The outcome is displayed on an impact table and the damaged infrastructure removed from the board. Affected families also receive no income during the following roundtable and neighbouring natural resources become contaminated. In this way, the players visually experience complex situations and are able to test new resilience strategies without having to deal with real consequences.

(a) Game session organized with citizens in Moroni (Comoros Islands). (b) Interaction among Belgian students to develop a resilient community. Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016)

(a) Game session organized with citizens in Moroni (Comoros Islands). (b) Interaction among Belgian students to develop a resilient community. Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016)

Players also have the opportunity to acquire protective action cards which can be used to mitigate, prepare or adapt to hazards. The cards can be used by individuals, but also be part of community actions. During a natural hazard, players can decide to use their cards, individually or as a team, to avoid (some) of the impacts caused by the geohazard. This approach stimulates learning about the risks and mitigation strategies associated with natural hazards, by allowing players to test, experience and discuss new management ideas.

The game lasts for a minimum of five years, or equivalent to three hours game time, after which the resilience of the community (which takes into account factors such as number of living families with permanent shelter and access to natural resources) is evaluated using a resilience index. Players are ranked according to their resilience index, thus generating discussion and analysis of strategies which lead to some players fearing better than others.

Following the game, do players better understand natural hazards?

To test the success of the game at raising awareness of natural hazards, the researcher’s carried out a number of game sessions. A total of 21 secondary school and university students from Belgium, as well as a further 54 students, citizens, earth scientist and risk managers from Africa took part in the sessions. Players completed questionnaires before and after the games to evaluate how their understanding of natural hazards and risk management strategies changed after having played Hazagora.

Appreciation of the game by the players (n=75). (∗) Results are significantly different between European and African players (p <0.05). Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016). Click to enlarge.

Appreciation of the game by the players (n=75). (∗) Results are significantly different between European and African players (p <0.05). Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016). Click to enlarge.

The questionnaires revealed that participants found the game fun to play and greatly appreciated the flexibility offered to players to come up with their own adaptation and mitigation strategies. The scientific information regarding the physical processes driving natural hazards was the main thing European players learnt from the game. In contrast, West African players highlighted the usefulness of the game to develop personal and professional mitigation plans; the learning outcomes reflecting the differing life experiences and geological situations of the participants.

Hazagora succeeds in making players more aware of the mechanisms which drive natural hazards and how communities’ vulnerabilities differed based on social-economic factors, rather than depending solely on the potency of the geohazard. By driving discussion and collaboration among players it also stimulates engagement with the importance of disaster risk reduction strategies, while at the same time developing player’s social and negotiation skills. And so, following an enjoyable afternoon of gaming, Hazagora achieves its goal and becomes a great addition to the tools already available when it comes to raising awareness of geohazards.

By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer.

 

References

Mossoux, S., Delcamp, A., Poppe, S., Michellier, C., Canters, F., and Kervyn, M.: Hazagora: will you survive the next disaster? – A serious game to raise awareness about geohazards and disaster risk reduction, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 135-147, doi:10.5194/nhess-16-135-2016, 2016.

Hazagora is a non-commerical game that is available upon request – please contact the study authors for more details.

Methane seeps – oases in the deep Arctic Ocean

Methane seeps – oases in the deep Arctic Ocean

The deep Arctic Ocean is not known for its wildlife. 1200 metres from the surface, well beyond where light penetrates the water and at temperatures below zero, it it’s a desolate, hostile environment. There are, however, exceptions to this, most notably around seeps in the seafloor that leak methane into the water above.

Here, methane is the fuel for life, not sunlight, creating oases in an otherwise barren landscape. On the Vestnesa Ridge, just off Svalbard, great plumes of methane stretch some 800 metres above the seabed. These seeps occur within pockmarks, depressions in the sea’s soft sediment, which span hundreds of metres across. At their base lies carbonate reefs, wide microbial mats and thriving meadows of tubeworms, which stretch out into the current. The microbes turn the methane into something much more valuable – carbon, and form the base of the deep Arctic food chain.

Emmelie Åström, a PhD student from the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, has been using high definition seafloor images to work out what effect these seeps have on the surrounding biota. The images reveal that the carbonate rocks that form at the seep’s margins create a unique habitat in an otherwise featureless environment. These structures provide shelter for a huge variety of animals, which benefit from a food chain fuelled by methane. She presented her results at the EGU General Assembly this week.

Just some of the many marine animals found around methane seeps. Credit: CAGE

Just some of the many marine animals found around methane seeps. Credit: CAGE

The communities are totally different just tens of metres from the seep. Utterly dependent on the methane to survive, the animals of the deep Arctic Ocean stick close to their fuel.

“We took photos going from the outside of the pockmark inside and you can see how the seafloor is changing, also the animal distribution and aggregation. When you come inside a pockmark, the seafloor changes very dramatically,” explains Åström.

There are similarities between these seeps and others around the world, but none have been studied so high in the Arctic.

“The Arctic is a place where lots of things are happening right now and it’s important to understand what kind of animals are present here.”

By towing a camera across the sediment and taking samples to match, Åström was able to map out the marine life in these deep, dark oceans. “The typical view you have is that it’s very barren and that there’s not so many big animals here,” she says, but her images tell a different story. These vibrant patches may be separated by swathes of barren sediment, but they’re thriving, and may have an important role to play.

By Sara Mynott, EGU General Assembly Press Assistant and PhD Student at University of Exeter.

Sara is a science writer and marine science PhD candidate from the University of Exeter. She’s investigating the impact of climate change on predator-prey relationships in the ocean and is one of our Press Assistants this week at the Assembly.

Photo Contest finalists 2016 – who will you vote for?

The selection committee received over 400 photos for this year’s EGU Photo Contest, covering fields across the geosciences. The fantastic finalist photos are below and they are being exhibited in Hall X2 (basement, Brown Level) of the Austria Center Vienna – see for yourself!

Do you have a favourite? Vote for it! There is a voting terminal (also in Hall X2), just next to the exhibit. The results will be announced on Friday 22 April during the lunch break (at 12:15).

 'Icebound blades of grass' . Credit: Katja Laute (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). A close up of blades of grass totally coated with ice. The photo was taken at sunset along the shoreline of Selbusjøen, a lake in middle Norway. The coating of the ice was built through the interplay of wave action and the simultaneously freezing of the water around the single blades of grass.

‘Icebound blades of grass’. Credit: Katja Laute (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). A close up of blades of grass totally coated with ice. The photo was taken at sunset along the shoreline of Selbusjøen, a lake in middle Norway. The coating of the ice was built through the interplay of wave action and the simultaneously freezing of the water around the single blades of grass.

 'There is never enough time to count all the stars that you want.' . Credit: Vytas Huth (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The centre of the Milky Way taken near Krakow am See, Germany. Some of the least light-polluted atmosphere of the northern german lowlands.

‘There is never enough time to count all the stars that you want’. Credit: Vytas Huth (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The centre of the Milky Way taken near Krakow am See, Germany. Some of the least light-polluted atmosphere of the northern german lowlands.

 'Full moon over Etna's fire'. Credit: Severine Furst (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Etna is one of the most active volcano on Earth but also one the most monitored. As soon as instruments show any signs of volcanic activity, scientists from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) of Catania urge to the summit to gather various eruption data. In this summer evening, the fresh wind sweep the clouds to reveal the rise of the full moon over one of Etna's summit craters where a strombolian eruption is taking place.

‘Full moon over Etna’s fire’. Credit: Severine Furst (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Etna is one of the most active volcano on Earth but also one the most monitored. As soon as instruments show any signs of volcanic activity, scientists from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) of Catania urge to the summit to gather various eruption data. In this summer evening, the fresh wind sweep the clouds to reveal the rise of the full moon over one of Etna’s summit craters where a strombolian eruption is taking place.

 'There is never enough time to count all the stars that you want.' . Credit: Vytas Huth (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Ice on Jokulsarlon beach in Iceland. Ice calving off the Breidamerkurjokull, one of the glaciers comprising the Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland. The is retreating rapidly, and in the process has created a large glacial lagoon known for its spectacular icebergs.

‘Glowing Ice’. Credit: Vytas Huth (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Ice on Jokulsarlon beach in Iceland. Ice calving off the Breidamerkurjokull, one of the glaciers comprising the Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland. The is retreating rapidly, and in the process has created a large glacial lagoon known for its spectacular icebergs.

 'Ice lace flower'. Credit: Maria Elena Popa (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Early morning shot of a spider web with frozen water droplets. The photo has been turned upside down, to make it look like a flower.

‘Ice lace flower’. Credit: Maria Elena Popa (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Early morning shot of a spider web with frozen water droplets. The photo has been turned upside down, to make it look like a flower.

 Sphalerite's "Transformer"'. Credit: Dmitry Tonkacheev (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The bulk of Au wire "boards" on the dark-brown phase surface in the form of fascination crystals (usually arborescent). Some of them look like a weapon from the "Transformers" arsenal or parts of his armor. Also bright diamond luster of this creature makes our "Knight" even more ultra-modern.

‘Sphalerite’s “Transformer”‘. Credit: Dmitry Tonkacheev (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The bulk of Au wire “boards” on the dark-brown phase surface in the form of fascination crystals (usually arborescent). Some of them look like a weapon from the “Transformers” arsenal or parts of his armor. Also bright diamond luster of this creature makes our “Knight” even more ultra-modern.

 'Nimbostratus painting the sky'. Credit: y María Burguet (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). This photo was taken in Valencia (Spain) during a storm formation. Nimbostratus are described as a grey cloud cover with a veiled appearance due to the precipitation (liquid or solid) holded within them. They are formed when a large layer of relatively warm and humid air ascend above a cold air mass. Together with the Altostratus, it is the core of a warm front.

‘Nimbostratus painting the sky’. Credit: María Burguet (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). This photo was taken in Valencia (Spain) during a storm formation. Nimbostratus are described as a grey cloud cover with a veiled appearance due to the precipitation (liquid or solid) held within them. They are formed when a large layer of relatively warm and humid air ascend above a cold air mass. Together with the Altostratus, it is the core of a warm front.

 'Living flows'. Credit: Marc Girons Lopez (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). River branches and lagoons in the Rapa river delta, Sarek National Park, northern Sweden. The lush vegetation creates a stark contrast with the glacial sediments transported by the river creating a range of tonalities.

‘Living flows’. Credit: Marc Girons Lopez (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). River branches and lagoons in the Rapa river delta, Sarek National Park, northern Sweden. The lush vegetation creates a stark contrast with the glacial sediments transported by the river creating a range of tonalities.

 'View of the Mausoleum'. Credit: Mike Smith (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The north Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, featuring one of the most spectacular coastal roads. In the distance the Mussenden Temple, built in 1785 as a reclusive library 40 m above the Atlantic Ocean.

‘View of the Mausoleum’. Credit: Mike Smith (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). The north Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, featuring one of the most spectacular coastal roads. In the distance the Mussenden Temple, built in 1785 as a reclusive library 40 m above the Atlantic Ocean.

 'Frozen angel'. Credit: Mikhail Varentsov (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Go-Pro camera, covered by hoarfrost, at sunrise, looks like fantasy-style angel with sword and banner. Photo made during NABOS-2015 expedition.

‘Frozen angel’. Credit: Mikhail Varentsov (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). Go-Pro camera, covered by hoarfrost, at sunrise, looks like fantasy-style angel with sword and banner. Photo made during NABOS-2015 expedition.

In addition, this year, to celebrate the theme of the EGU 2016 General Assembly, Active Planet, the photo that best captured the theme of the conference was selected by the judges. The winner is this stunning photo entitled ‘Mirror mirror in the sea…’, by Mario Hoppmann! Congratulations! This too is being exhibited in Hall X2 (basement, Brown Level) of the Austria Center Vienna.

 'Mirror Mirror in the sea...' . Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears and their interaction with the cryosphere are a prime example of how the biosphere is able to adapt to an "Active Planet". They are also a prime example of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth's climate system endangers other lifeforms.

‘Mirror Mirror in the sea…’ . Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu). A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears and their interaction with the cryosphere are a prime example of how the biosphere is able to adapt to an “Active Planet”. They are also a prime example of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth’s climate system endangers other lifeforms.

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