Monday, October 20, 2008

FT2008 - Alaska chapter 4 and a big thanks

Before I write any more about FT2008, the International Conference on Thermochronometry, I need to take care of one blog related item. Last week I was named a "blog of note" on, and have since seen a drastic increase in my readership. Above is a bar graph of my daily page loads from 10/10/2008 until today. Take the statistics challenge, see if you can tell what day I was named a blog of note. I removed the actual numbers, well, mainly because I have been shamed into realizing I was letting my blog suffer tremendously and therefore are unwilling to admit my average readership. But, thanks to the recognition, my page loads really spiked, that first day they were 2 orders of magnitude higher than average, and although they have settled down, are still 20 times what I am used to. Now, based on the comments, many people want to attribute this to my pretty pictures from Alaska, but that is probably only because they are embarrassed to admit how addictive thermochronology can be. I understand gentle readers, but don't be ashamed, it is OK to admit that you are fascinated by thermochronology, that you now want to quit your career and pursue this new passion, that you now try to work in the phrase "thermally activated volume diffusion" into everyday conversations, and you are constantly frustrated when reviewing papers that compare apparently phase-independent "40Ar/39 ages" to U-Pb zircon ages like they are the same thing.

Seriously though, thank you to whoever named me a blog of note, and to all of the people who've had so many nice things to say about the blog and my pictures. I appreciate the kind words.

So back to FT2008, the International Conference on Thermochronmetry. In a previous post, I discussed some of the methodoligical advancements I was most interested in. Today I just wanted to highlight a few of the case studies I found most intriguing. Again, if you are interested in these topics, make sure to check out the free and downloadable extended abstracts from the meeting, available from the Union College FT2008 website. Of course, these will be interspersed with random pictures from the field trips, in no particular order.

  • There was one talk and a few posters that dealt with apatite fission-track and (U-Th)/He ages from tunnels in the alps. The talk was by Reinecker, and I apologize for not remembering his first name, and the posters were by Glotzbach and Spiegel. All of these papers were in the Alpine Orogen session on the Thursday of the talk. So why tunnels? Well, these tunnels go straight through significant topographic peaks. Isotherms, or surfaces of equal temperature in the earth, tend to mimic topography, especially at relatively shallow levels. In some ways this is a problem in thermochronology. We often would like to know how fast things came to the surface, but that depends on the depth of the closure temperature isotherm, which in turn depends on toppgraphy (and many other things), which we don't necessarily know. Isotherms are deflected up under large topographic peaks, meaning that if you drill sideways through a mountain, you will experience hotter and hotter temperatures towards the core of the mountain. So I mentioned that the deflection of isotherms is a problem for us brave thermochronologists, but used correctly, it could also be a relatively powerful tool. If topography can affect isotherms, then topography should also be recorded in thermochronometers. The tunnel studies should see evidence for the topography being recorded in the low-temperature thermochronometers. Turns out it isn't so obvious, but I'll leave the abstracts for you to read.
A Blue Grouse (I think, correct me if I am wrong)

  • In the last few years there have been a number of studies investigating the link between climate and tectonics. Specifically, which drives which? My own personal belief is that it just isn't an either or, but the idea that climate (namely erosion) could drive crustal processes is kind of hard to swallow for many geologists. Some of the evidence for this involves correlations between erosion rates, rainfall, and uplift rates in active mountain belts. This isn't supposed to work everywhere, there are plenty of places that get tons of rain but where nothing is being uplifted (like the Amazon basin), but many people think of it as a major driver in mountainous regions. Frank Lisker presented a paper on some of his results from Sri Lanka, and what struck me is that the southern part of the island has a rather large mountain (2000+ meters) and gets buckets of rain, but has i n c r e d i b a l l y s l o w uplift rates, slow enough they are reported in meters per million years (typically we report uplift rates in kilometers per million years).

More massive piles of Late Miocene - Pliocene conglomerates

So I think that is all I'm going to write on this. It gets difficult to decide what talks to highlight and what talks not to highlight. If you have found any of the things I've discussed intriguing, download and enjoy the abstract volume.
More pillow basalts from the Kenai Peninsula. Seriously, they actually look like pillows!

And my last Alaskan fall picture


The villager: said...

Great Alaskan fall image !

Mithunam said...

nice pics. Happened to come across your blog when i was updating mine..I recently read a book called "Geological wonders of Alberta" and was hooked to the geological terms..learnt something about sinkholes.Quite interesting for aan absolute beginner to the topic..

Chocobo said...

Them's some beautiful pillow basalts.

mika said...

your blog and photos are so nice
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Anonymous said...

Great blog,

Will return to see more of your blog


Silver Fox said...

I think I can spot the day your traffic increased!

Great pillows and grouse photos. Where are the pillows located on the Kenai Peninsula? Are they only accessible by boat?

Bananasana said...

Whoa. I'm doing my master's at NSMEU
(Northern Snowbound Mining Engineer University) and am pleased to say you are by far the most entertaining geology author I've come across. I'm telling all my compadres with an interest to check you out.

Anonymous said...

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How about exchanging Links?!
Visit my Blog & if u like it,pls add it to your Blogroll and I too will put a Link for your Site on my Blog!!

apol said...

nice pics...
if only my country could have that.??
at least i've seen the pics....

merit said...

nice pics and good work

Lakeland Jo said...

I have a good friend who has just moved to Seattle, and he used to be a geologist. He will truly love thermochronology I am sure. I love the pictures.
Well done on being blog of note

Malibu Yogini said...

Science is sexy.

Great blog! I'm venturing into Geology next semester. I'm excited!

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Congrats on being listed on blogsofnote! That's where I found your blog. Maybe one day my blog will join yours! :) (queue the music for "high hopes" song) lol

Neo said...

do I need to be educated in rocket science to understand wtf you are talking about? congrats on blogs of note wish I could achieve that with some bit of modesty, but any how, my dad was involved with the destruction of Alaska, as he was part of the Alaska pipe line... sorry, that was his deal not mine, I would find this to be an interesting read if I knew what the >>>>> thermochronology meant?????

Thermochronic said...


That's rock science! No, if you want to learn anything about the terms I use, check out my sidebar, I have references to a lot of geology reference posts, including my own explaining thermochronology, geochronology, and a ton of other things.

Malibu Yogini said...

I really enjoyed reading about the link between climate and tectonics. I've recently been seduced by science after years in CorporateAmericaLand. Your blog is super interesting and your writing style adds an enjoyable depth to the subject matter. Thanks for blogging and I look forward to keeping up with your goings on!

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