Category Archives: Geology

Is the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association a public body under Michigan FOIA

The question from a story in the Marquette Mining Journal:

MARQUETTE – Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka heard oral arguments Thursday on a case involving whether the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association is a public body subject to producing financial information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The association is important to plaintiffs in the case because it was created under state law requirements by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which makes it a public body by extension, the plaintiffs contend.

The association in question is the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Assocation, described on a Michigan DEQ site as follows.

The Geological Core and Sample Repository holds a
collection of drill core and cuttings from 67 counties
in Michigan, including all 15 counties from the Upper
Peninsula. The purpose of the collection is to act as
a "rock library" and make the collected material
available to individual researchers and industry for
geologic study. It is hoped that the collection will
lead to increased mineral and fuel exploration and
development in various parts of Michigan. Both the
local and state economies may benefit by more jobs
being created.

The plaintiffs contend:

"The murky facts surrounding the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association exemplify the need for the Freedom of Information Act and the purpose for which it was enacted: to shine a light on the actions of government officials which directly impact the citizens whom they purport to represent," said Jana Mathieu, the plaintiff's attorney.

More details from Save the Wild UP:

Near the Upper Peninsula District Office of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in Gwinn, this map taped to the wall of a large warehouse labels the facility a “State Warehouse.” Core samples are stored within, but the DEQ claims no further association with NMGRA, the non-profit that has leased the warehouse and is attempting to raise money to make it a state geologic repository.



Power outages follow Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake #eqnz

Ann Arbor, December 22, 2011 – Three strong earthquakes of more than magnitude 5 hit Christchurch, New Zealand today, disrupting the power and telecommunications networks in the area and damaging roads and structures because of liquefaction of the soil. Damage and injury estimates are incomplete as of this writing.

According to USGS, three earthquake hits christchurch today , 5.8 at 01:58:36 PM, 5.3 at 02:06:25 PM and 5.8 at 03:18:02 PM #eqnz

Power grid operator Orion New Zealand is providing network updates via Twitter on the status of the electrical grid during the aftermath of the quake; follow @OrionNZ for details. The updates via Twitter are happening in addition to their normal reporting on their web site:

Due to the extent of outages on the Orion network at present, we are unable to update this page.  We will resume usual updates as soon as possible.  In the interim, please see our home page for general updates about power supply following the December aftershocks.

5:20pm: We are unable to update the outages page at at present, as we are still scoping #eqnz works

Telecom New Zealand issued this update, also via Twitter

Full update from us – some congestion, some sites on battery backup, pls txt instead of calling if you can: #eqnz ^RI

The NZ Raw weblog has photos and video of the damage, which includes liquefaction of the soil.

(A geologist) was keen to use the photos in a paper he was writing and said (and I more-or-less quote) “I’ve been to substantial earthquakes all over the world for the past 30 years and I haven’t seen liquefaction anywhere near as bad as it is in Christchurch. You guys are pretty interesting right now!”

The hash tag in common use for the event is #eqnz, and usage of that tag is nearly universal.

Tsunami maps for March 2011 Honshu earthquake

Here's a view from Ann Arbor of the Japanese earthquake. A magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Honshu, Japan at 5:46 UTC, 2:46 pm Japan time, and 12:46 a.m. Eastern Time, about 6200 miles from Ann Arbor. Damage is extensive, with the city of Sendai hit hard, and concern for the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. The effects of the tsunami stretched across the Pacific.

This post was last updated Friday, March 11 2011 at 11:50 a.m. EST

Ann Arbor resident David Fry is in Hawaii and was evacuated from his hotel, according to a Twitter message. He writes: "Safe but uncomfortable. Trying to sleep on a concrete floor in an open air building with several hundred other people. Sounds like our hotel in the Kona area in the Big Island may have some damage."

There are certain to be more local people with ties to the area affected, but news has a way of trickling in.

Seek official sources for current information. These maps may have been updated since they were collected.

The Pacific Tsunami Information Center is a good source, as is the Japan Meteorological Agency. The USGS earthquake report is for an 8.9 magnitude quake off the east coast of Honshu.

Wikipedia is characteristically thorough: 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami.

The National Data Buoy Center has real time water levels across the Pacific.

Live blogs: Alertnet, Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami; CNN, Japan earthquake live blog; Guardian, Japan earthquake live updates.  

Live television: NHK-TV via USTREAM; Waikiki beach cam (30 second preroll ad).

Photo essays: The Atlantic's In Focus: Earthquake in Japan.

Tsunami travel times, from NOAA.

Dr. Jeff Masters from Weather Underground: Great quake rocks Japan, generating dangerous Pacific tsunami.

image from

NOAA MOST model, plus observed; from NCTR visualization. This is at 2h 28m into the tsunami:

Picture 5

Japan tsunami map

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Did you feel it? Shake maps from USGS.

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Predicted tsunami surge heights, from

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US West Coast alert status, from

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Shelters in Tokyo, a Google map


From Socketsite, a San Francisco map showing areas at risk – not from this tsunami in particular, but in general.

image from

National Data Buoy Center for a buoy off the coast of Hawaii, 140 NM SE of Honolulu.


image from

here's a slightly later closeup of just the 3/11 data

Plot of Water Column Height Data for Station 51407
A map of Japanese nuclear power plants, from the International Nuclear Safety Center.


 Multiple quakes in Japan, via USGS: 

10-degree Map Centered at 40°N,140°E

10-degree map showing recent earthquakes

George F. Kay, Frank Leverett, and Paul MacClintock examining gumbotil in Iowa, 1925

George F. Kay, Frank Leverett, Paul MacClintock, Ricketts Iowa, Nebraskan gumbotil

George F. Kay, Frank Leverett, and Paul MacClintock, 4 miles NE of Ricketts, IA, at the Nebraskan gumbotil outcrop.  Photo Calvin Photographic Collection. From George Frederick Kay 1873-1943, University of Iowa. Photographed by: Earl T. Apfel, July 1925. 

Frank Leverett did extensive field work in Michigan; this Michigan Digital Geology Library has many of his notebooks.

George F. Kay was my great-grandfather.

The tremors come, the tremors go, they love the wintry weather: frost quakes in Ohio

The Dayton Daily News notes an overnight frost quake centered around Darke County, Ohio on February 10, 2011.

The quake, or cryoseism as it’s known in scientific circles, occurs when moisture soaks into the soil and a quick freeze causes a sudden, even violent expansion and contraction. Darke County’s 911 director Brandon Redmond said the quakes erupted for eight hours Thursday, starting at 1 a.m. The heaviest reports were between 5:30-7:30 a.m.

No reports came through to the USGS Do you feel it service that I can locate (searches for Indiana and Ohio came up blank.)

A similar ice quake happened on Lake Mendota near the University of Wisconsin in 2008, close enough for a geology department seismograph to pick up a reading.

The Jan 31, 1986 This Week in NOAA describes the analysis of frost quake events in Maine.

The most thorough analysis I've found is Frost quakes as a particular class of seismic events: Observations within the East-European platform A. A. Nikonov , IZVESTIYA PHYSICS OF THE SOLID EARTH Volume 46, Number 3, 257-273, DOI: 10.1134/S1069351310030079 . Alas, subscription only; the abstract:

The group of quakes, which are caused by fast freezing of water-saturated soils or rocks at abrupt drop of winter temperatures often occurring in the middle and high latitudes of Eurasia, is considered. The review of little-known literature is given; the statistical data on the distribution of earthquakes in seasons and the time of day in various regions of Eurasia are presented. Special attention is paid to the East European Platform; using the data for this platform, with thorough consideration of reference quakes along with the weather conditions, the signs of a specific class of nontectonic seismic events are determined. The question concerning the necessity of the frost quakes’ discrimination in compilation of tectonic earthquake catalogues in certain regions is stated.

Translated from the original Russian, which is transliterated as Morozoboinye sotryaseniya kak osobyi klass seismicheskikh yavlenii (po materialam Vostochno-Evropeiskoi platformy). The dedication is

The tremors come, the tremors go, They love the wintry weather, With periods fast and periods slow – Perplexing altogether C.B. Hammond. The song of the seismologist. 1911.

The original Song of the Seismlologist is from the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Picture 4More frost quake accounts, from 1908 in Connecticut

Picture 47

Alaska volcano maps – Mt. Redoubt, 2009

There are active volcanoes in Alaska, especially now including Mt. Redoubt.  It appears likely to erupt as of this writing, and I'm not expecting to be on the top of things when it does.  The Alaska Volcano Observatory is the best source of current information, and they are using twitter at @alaska_avo for updates.

Here are some sources for Alaska volcano maps – so you know where things are, how far apart the various places are, and what might be downwind.

CookInlet Mt. Redoubt is in the Cook Inlet part of Alaska, near Anchorage. This map shows distances and links to the AVO's pages on the various volcanoes in this area. Mt. Redoubt is also historically known as Ujakushatsch, Viesokaia, Goreloi, Mirando, Redoubt Volcano, Redoubt, Mt., Yjakushatsch, Burnt Mtn., Goryalaya, Redoute Mtn. and Redutskaya, Sopka.

The Smithsonian has a collection of satellite imagery from volcanoes around the world. Here are their satellite photos of Mt. Redoubt from the ASTER Volcano Archive. These will load into Google Earth as KML files as well. The "plain" imagery from this are about 30 megapixels apiece and are from 2000; here's a piece of one of them.

Picture 19