Saturday, October 31, 2015

Energy Policy and Wonk Fun

Dave Roberts at Vox pointed me to this fun tool
The tool allows one to consider the results of various and combined policy and goals for CO2 reduction. My first attempt is above, but I could spend more time digging into the details. For my effort, I got rid of all subsidies to all energy sources. Big dips were achieved by getting rid of coal as an electric source and heavy investment and planning for public transportation. A full carbon tax also brought about a dip of some size. Forest and agriculture changes brought about more change than I expected and a few changes hardly move the graph. Anyway a good learning tool and a great way to spend time while doing other stuff.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I am giving a talk on landslides, slope stability and policy implications. One of the factors on slope stability is fetch. May not really apply to the particular talk I am planning, but then a again maybe I can fit in somehow. For shoreline sites with long fetch (distance over open water) means big waves and more rapid erosion and thus more frequent landslides.
The image is from a site off of the northwest coast of France. The lighthouse was and is an engineering marvel. In considering shoreline erosion and processes, the extreme events should be considered. Gentle waves may be the norm, but look out for fetch and consider the possibilities.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Between Grain Silos on Highway 172

The approach towards the grain silos while driving south on Highway 172 suggests that the highway will pass right between the two silos. 

The perception is maintained and enhanced by the rise in the road that obscures the presence of Highway 2.

Highway 172 comes to an end at the intersection with Highway 2 so blasting at 60 mph between the silos does not happen.

I do wonder if the silos were laid out as they were by accident or by design to provide an illusion for those approaching from the north. It is one of several features of Highway 172 that I enjoy. The other features are crossing the former edge of the Okanogan ice lobe Withrow moraine. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Apple Season, Migrant Workers and Wenatchee Wlamart

I had a rendezvous in Wenatchee and came up with the idea of meeting at the Walmart parking lot as it is easy to find and on the edge of town. I got there a bit early and observed that several buses were bringing workers in for shopping. Its a busy time in Apple Country.   

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Purse Seiners in Hood Canal

Field ventures the past few days. While crossing the Hood Canal Bridge I got a glimpse of the fishing industry at work. Fairly sure these purse seine boats are catching chum salmon. Hood Canal rivers still have large chum runs in the fall.   

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Van Zandt Landslide Introduction

A large landslide involving bedrock of the Chuckanut Formation has left a disconcerting set of deposits on the Nooksack River Valley floor near the confluence of the South Fork Nooksack and the main stem of the river.  

DEM of the Van Zandt Slide

Geoffrey Malick led me and a few other helpers to the top of the slide area as he is doing some much needed research and investigation of the landslide. There have been reports of some slide movement or noises coming coming from the mountainside. Indeed it appears that there is some recent movement. 

The smooth moss slope with recently fallen trees is a dip slope within the Chuckanut Formation. The jumbled pile of rock and trees in the first image was lateral from and below this slope. A close look at the slope found striations on the smooth rock face indicating slip direction.

Striations parallel to Brunton tip on carbonaceous shale
The striations were prevalent all across the rock face  

The striations shown above are at an angle to the slope (dip) of the formation. This is a big multi section landslide complex and I only spent a short time at the site. It is slide that needs to be much better understood. As I do dabble in the policy realm, this slide and how to think about it from a policy perspective presents an interesting problem. My thinking on this issue is evolving and revisits to this landslide will be in order.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Slow Change Regarding Geologic Risk in Washington State

I was not part of the summit discussed in this article:
However, I was quoted on a recent example on landslide risk and state timber sale. The context of the landslide I was asked about is shown below.

LiDAR image of North Zender timber sale

The slide is a deep bedrock failure. The DNR report did not discuss the mechanics of the slide and the type of rock involved. The proposed timber sales do not cover the whole slide area, but significant portions of the landslide area on the north landslide have been recently clear cut.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Few Maps for Northwest Washington Quake Risk

My neighborhood association (York in Bellingham) asked me to do a short presentation on a local level of the-really-big-one. I have done a similar presentation before, but it is good to remind everyone and to a degree the hazard is not so bad as some might be concerned about. For example, there will not be a 200-foot tsunami surge into our hood. 

There are other hazards worth discussing. The City of Bellingham Emergency Planner, Paul Gazdk, also presented. I have presented with him before and he has lots of issues to worry about and does a good job of gently but effectively pushing for being better prepared for emergency events. 

I utilized drawing on butcher paper for part of the presentation, but also used some images taped to the walls around the room for chatting purposes. 

Shake map of a Cascadia big one scenario.

While some areas will experience intense shaking, the map also shows that geographic area that will be impacted will present a significant emergency management resource issue. 

Expected peak ground movement in southwest BC

Tsunami inundation map for Bellingham Bay and Lummi Bay shore

Scenario for intensity from a local fault in Whatcom County

Probability on a yearly basis of a big shake
Note that the peak acceleration force is highly dependent on the specific soils but does not distinguish soil types. 
Also note the red zones within Puget Sound associated with the Seattle Fault and South Whidbey; this map includes all known faults not just the big one  

City of Victoria map of areas subject to seismic amplification

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beall's List

Jeffrey Beall of the University of Colorado Denver provides a list of publications and publishers of questionable scholarly value at In addition to the Beall List, the link provides further information on the subject of questionable scholarly publications and practices. A good guidance to keep in mind when researching outside ones expertise.

I checked Beall's list after coming across a geology paper on the San Juan Islands published in he Journal of Earth Science and Engineering. The Journal of Earth Science and Engineering is on Beall's list. Having read the paper, I would say that the journal absolutely belongs on the list.

I am familiar enough with the geology and specific locations discussed in the paper in question to recognize that the paper is seriously flawed to the point of being mostly BS. I am also familiar enough with reputable journals to question this previously unknown journal as a good source. That said,  I do a fair bit of research outside my area of expertise. If I am researching biochar and nutrient uptake for example it is worth taking a bit of time to consider the journals in this dawning era of open access journals and pdfs on the internet.

Beall's List may not be the be all end all. But it is a good start.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dust Blow

Other than the very heavy late August rain event, this later summer early fall has been fairly dry. For the dry land winter wheat on the east side of the Cascades there was enough rain in August to get the wheat started. But the dry weather since has left some fields or parts of fields fully green and still partly dry. That was in evidence as the wind kicked up on Saturday at this central Washington site.  

Overall though conditions were not bad with the dust blow up in this area being limited to a bit of a low area that perhaps had had a bit less rain and was a bit warmer. Hence, a rather rare event of seeing dust blowing up into the sky but with overall clear conditions. It also helped that we were upwind of the dust - much better than being down wind. Dust storms do happen in eastern Washington, but the frequency has become less with improved farming practices.

This area of dry land wheat farming is winter wheat only. The wheat begins growth ideally in September and is well established by the time cold weather arrives and then finishes growth in the spring with harvest in the summer. After harvest the fields harvested are left fallow for a year to allow moisture to build back up. At wetter areas to the north and east of this site plantings may take place every year and may be rotated with nitrogen fixing crops.    

Friday, October 9, 2015

Basalt Landslides south of Wenatchee

Last Spring I was south of Wenatchee along the Columbia River and got a good view of several very large landslides that had come off the high basalt slopes above the valley.

Large slide complex off of Badger Mountain
The terrace in the left foreground is the Pangborn Bar from an ice-age flood
The vertical relief of the slide is almost 2,000 feet

Slide and rock fall off of Jumpoff Ridge southwest of the Columbia

Another slide off of Jumpoff Ridge

The two Jumpoff Ridge slides viewed from a bit further away
The vertical relief of these slides is a bit shy of 2,000 feet 

The area below Jumpoff Ridge is a huge landslide complex of sliding blocks. The slide complex is too big to take in and is the largest in Washington State. The slide complex extends all the way to the top of the high ridge. 

The headwall of the slide area up on the snowy slopes 

Waitt (1982, Wenatchee Geology Map) describes the slide complex and noted that it predates the ice-age flood deposits. But he also described large translational intact blocks on the upper slide area suggesting post ice age slope movement.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back Eddy at Pangborn Bar

Apples heading to the warehouse above the Columbia River valley

There is a lot of landscape in the above picture of the Columbia River valley downstream of Wenatchee. The view is looking west up the valley towards Wenatchee which us around the corner and out of site on the right. On the right is the edge of picture as well as the foreground is Pangborn Bar. Pangborn Bar is a huge gravel bar deposited by early ice age floods that surged down the Columbia River. The green valley floor was formed by later ice age floods that created a back eddy that carved off a bit of the older gravel bar.

The picture really fails to capture the scale of the landscape. And in truth, even standing and looking at the view is only a modest improvement. The scale of the features is to hard to take in and our minds have a hard tome reading landscapes of this scale. The ice-age floods left such massive features they are hard grasp.

DEM showing back eddy with curved blue line

Note in the DEM, the Pangborn Bar is about 8 kms long. Note the large old landslide complex northeast of the bar. A classic feature in over steep basalt lava flows of eastern Washington. Southwest of the river is an even larger landslide complex. It is old, but parts show evidence of relatively recent movement.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Portlandia: Very Brief Geology Summary

A little brief summary of Portland geology.

The west side of the city has a fault line that uplifts the west hills above the low lands. Movement on this fault would be a disruptive event.

Much of the city is built on a broad ice-age flood bar deposit. As ice-age floods surged out of the Columbia River Gorge to the east the flow widened and lost velocity and thus a sequence of sand and gravels were deposited. The Columbia River and the Willamette River have subsequently incised down through these deposits. Ice-age flood deposits also cover much of Vancouver, Washington north of the Columbia. A few road cuts along I-5 north of Vancouver in the Kalama area provide cross sectional views of the flood deposits.

To the east of the city and scattered within the city above the flood deposits are the Boring Hills. Several of these hills area cinder cones with craters and lava flows. These small volcanoes are as recent as about 100,000 years old.    

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Usual and Accustomed vs. Cherry Point Coal Terminal

This video: Bellingham Herald Video captures just one of the usual and accustomed fisheries that may be impacted by the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point. The 160 year old treaty between the United States and western Washington tribes is just one of the permit hurdles facing the terminal project. It is a big hurdle and at this point the most immediate.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Invasive Basalt at the top of McNeil Canyon

The drive east up McNeil Canyon Road from the Columbia River near Chelan to the top of the Waterville Plateau provides a nice view of ice age flood gravel bars (boulder bars) piled up high above the current river as well as ice margin terraces. Glacial ice reached this far south and massive basalt erratic boulders are scattered across the hill slope.

The boulders meet the erratic category in that the underlying bedrock is migmatite of the Chelan Complex - highly metamorphosed igneous rocks. Further up the canyon the underlying bedrock is well exposed.

Road cut into the Chelan Complex migmatite

During past drives on the road I had kept an eye out for the contact between the Columbia River Basalt Group and the underlying metamorphic rocks. The place where the flood basalt covered over the old soil and bedrock 15 million years ago. But there is no exposure of that contact here.

Near the top of the canyon the road cuts through a unit of silts and fine sands which in the past I assumed was associated with some sort of glacial outwash or ice margin lake as the silt and sand were capped with glacial till. That interpretation had been made by a quick glance out the car window without stopping.

This time I stopped and took a closer look.

Slightly tilted silts and sands

First thing to note is that these silts and sands are tilted off the horizontal. A bit of a surprise for young glacial units and cause to suspect these are not glacial sediments. The silts and sands are capped with glacial till.

Silt and sands capped by basalt-rich till. 
Note the till has filled in an area where the silts and sands were eroded by the ice.

On the downhill side of the road cut is an exposure of basalt with the lake sediments overlying the basalt. 

Columbia River Basalt Group underlying the lake sediment

A close look at the contact shows the lake sediment has been cooked by the basalt.

These old lake sediments are not a glacial ice margin lake. They are older than the basalt. The lava flow flowed into a lake and invaded the sediments as an invasive lava flow pushing the sediments aside with the heat of the lava then altering the silts and sands in close contact. The silts and sands may be correlated with the Ellensburg Formation - alluvial sediments deposited between basalt flow events during the time of the Columbia River Flood Basalt eruptions.