Author: Kim Geiger

Q&A with Xin Xi: Uncovering Global Dust-Climate Connections

Dr. Xin Xi: “Surface weather observations are worth a refreshed look and can be used for improving our dust-climate modeling capability.”

GMES Assistant Professor Xin Xi’s new open-source dataset, duISD, is featured in Michigan Tech’s Unscripted Research blog. Here, he tells us more about it.

Q: How did you get started studying dust and desertification? 

XX: I grew up in humid southern China and had no experiences with dust storms when I was young. When I started college in Beijing, I had personal encounters with the “yellow dust” or Kosa (in Korea and Japan). The sky turned murky yellow every spring, while the whole city was shrouded in a cloud of dust blown from northwestern China. 

When I started graduate school at Georgia Tech, atmospheric aerosols emerged as a central theme in climate research, largely because they are capable of counteracting the warming effect of greenhouse gasses and play a crucial role in the hydrological cycle. Like many others, I became interested in my research due to the positive influence of my Ph.D. advisor, an expert in atmospheric aerosols, particularly mineral dust. 

Q: Why did you decide to revisit the use of horizontal visibility? 

XX: Primarily because of the long timespan of the visibility record from surface weather stations. It is by far the longest instrumental data record of dust, including regions near the dust source where modern-day satellites have difficulties providing reliable observations. 

Long-term, uninterrupted data records are paramount for understanding the variability of dust in response to climate and land use changes. I believe the visibility record has not been used to its full potential, so I took on the effort to develop a homogenized dust-climate record.

Q: Who do you imagine will get the most use from your new dataset? How would a researcher make use of it, and why? 

XX: This new dataset is an initial version of the dust-climate dataset I have been working on. Currently it consists of monthly records of the ambient dust burden at more than 10,000  weather stations worldwide. It is presented in an easy-to-read format, so anyone familiar with spreadsheets can use it. Dust researchers may find it useful, because they can avoid the tedious preprocessing steps with the raw data and are presented with summary statistics to help them pick the stations for their region of interest.

Dr. Xi used the dataset to characterize dust variability and climate connections around the world. The results of his study are featured in an article in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Q: Do you intend to update with future versions? 

XX: Definitely. I plan to conduct data fusion by combining the surface observations with additional climate and land information from satellites or models.

Q: What are the most unique and noteworthy aspects of this research? 

XX: It is a climate data record development project, and the ultimate goal is to create a quality-controlled dataset for the climate community to study trends, variability and relationships about dust and climate. In addition, I believe the dataset can offer other insightful information about the deficiency of current climate models. 

Q: What do you plan to research next? 

XX: I plan to take on the next step of updating the initial dataset I created, and develop new analytic results, which can convince myself — and, hopefully, the climate community — that surface weather observations are worth a refreshed look and can be used for improving our dust-climate modeling capability.

Xi’s open-source dataset, duISD, can be accessed online

A Note from the Chair

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Alumni,

Greetings from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences! I hope that this newsletter finds you well and in good spirits.

The long Keweenaw winter is finally over and so is another fruitful academic year at Michigan Tech. We continue to thrive in the strong pursuit of our research and educational missions. 

Professor Aleksey Smirnov, Chair, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

With most pandemic-related restrictions lifted, our GMES faculty and students alike enjoyed in-person interaction in both the classroom and the lab, and also resumed their travel to fieldwork, conferences, and other professional activities. 

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to fund student participation in professional meetings. One particular highlight: our faculty and students were honored and recognized for their contributions and hard work at the 2022 SME Annual Conference & Expo in Salt Lake City. 

Our central priority is to enrich the learning experiences of our students and ensure their future success. At the end of April we wholeheartedly congratulated our Spring 2022 graduates, wishing them godspeed in their future endeavors. We also celebrated the well-deserved promotions of Dr. Radwin Askari to Associate Professor of Geophysics with tenure, and of Dr. Nathan Manser to Professor of Practice in Mining Engineering. Dr. Manser also received the Robert W. Piekarz award from the Industrial Minerals and Aggregates Division of SME.

Our faculty, staff, and students have been actively engaged in a wide range of research and engineering problems, working around the globe from Central America to India. Funding for this research comes from various agencies including NSF, NASA, USGS, NIOSH, and others. I am especially proud to report the success of our students who won no less than six Michigan Space Grant Consortium awards this year!

Many of these achievements are made possible through your ongoing encouragement and support. Thank you! We strive to provide the best opportunities for our students. As we work toward our goals, with your continued support, I am certain we will get where we want to be. 

While this letter is mainly intended to share our news with you, I hope that you will in turn share your own news and achievements with our Department, so that we can celebrate the impact each of us has on the wider world.

And, if your travels bring you to Houghton, please stop by–we are always happy to see you.

Best wishes,

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair
Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Pictured here: a portion of the Keweenaw Boulder Garden on campus at Michigan Tech, a dream fulfilled for geoscientist and GMES Professor Emeritus Bill Rose.

Happy Holidays: A Note from the Chair

Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Dear Alumni and Friends!

I hope that this newsletter finds all of you and your families healthy and safe. Winter is in full swing in Houghton County, with over 30″ of snow this season so far. The Tech Trails are groomed, the broomball fields are set, our students have completed final exams and many are celebrating their recent graduation. As the holidays approach, I am happy to share some exciting developments that happened at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences since we sent you our previous newsletter in early June.

Before all, I am thrilled to report that our recently-reinstated Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering program has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The meticulous accreditation process ensures that the program meets the strictest professional standards and provides the students with a solid educational foundation and posits them for successful and impactful careers. You can read more about it here.

Our faculty, staff, and students continued their diligent and productive work to move our department forward. 

Due to the previous year’s cancellations, this summer we offered two sections of our Field Geology and Field Geophysics courses each. Everyone was happy to get back in the field for experiential learning. And to add to the excitement, our Field Geophysics students were the first cohort to take the advantage of cancellation of the laboratory fee, thanks to the Carl G. Schwenk Field Geophysics Lab Endowment.

Our faculty, alumni, and students have been recognized for their contributions and hard work. Most importantly, we celebrated two of our colleagues being named inaugural faculty fellows. Dr. Snehamoy Chatterjee, Associate Professor, was appointed the Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering; and Jeremy Shannon, Principal Lecturer, was named the Carl G. Schwenk Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics. We are extremely grateful to Carl Schwenk and the Witte family for their generosity, which will have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on the academic and professional successes of our students and faculty. 

This fall, we congratulate Angela Hammond (BS ’00, MS ’02; Geological Engineering) who has been inducted into the Presidential Council of Alumnae.

Our students continue to be successful in their classes, participating in research, and presenting their work worldwide. These efforts have brought them much recognition. Most notably, our student chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) has been named the 2021 Student Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row! We also are very proud of Emily Street, a mining engineering senior, who won a prestigious nationwide 2021 Copper Club Lord Bagri Scholarship.

Last but not the least, our heartfelt congratulations go to our Summer and Fall 2021 graduates.

On behalf of our students, faculty, and staff, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all of you who have provided support to our department! Your support is more important for us than ever during these challenging times. As we head toward 2022, we are aware of the hurdles we face, and the opportunities ahead. We look forward to your continued engagement with GMES as we recommit to our mission and goals.

As always, I will be happy to hear from you at any time by email (asmirnov@mtu.edu), phone (906.487.2365), or in-person (Dow 631).

Wishing you a very happy holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous new year!

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair

Congratulations to GMES Summer and Fall 2021 Graduates!

We are pleased to announce our Summer and Fall graduates. We are proud of you, and wish you the best of luck in your next chapter.


Leonid Surovitskii
Leonid Surovitskii

Leonid Surovitskii will soon graduate with a PhD in Geophysics. A highlight of his time here has been conducting fieldwork in China, Canada, and the U.S. Leo shared that all of his experience at Michigan Tech is a bright spot on his life path. Moving forward, Leo plans to publish more research papers and is looking forward to finding a postdoctoral position.


Domenicca (Dome) Guillen

Domenicca (Dome) Guillen is graduating with an MS in Geology. Dome shared this when asked to reflect on the last two years: “My time at Michigan Tech was a self-revolution for me; I had to adapt myself to a new language, culture, and weather. Certainly, I have improved academically and even emotionally, during this time, and I thank MTU for who I am now. In terms of courses, I love the remote sensing courses and the course on geostatistics and data analysis.”


Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson will soon graduate with an MS in Geophysics. Katie is continuing with her research working towards a PhD. A few highlights of Katie’s time here have been playing on a broomball team her first year, getting to travel to do fieldwork, and meeting so many wonderful people.


Dianna Bullen

Diana Bullen is graduating with an MS in Geology. After graduation, Diana plans on relocating back home to lower Michigan while searching for a job. When asked what she enjoyed and will miss the most, she had this to say, “I am going to miss all of my university Zoom friends the most. I am thankful that I got to meet such a great group of people. When I met them in person they were just as amazing as they were online!”


Nick Potter is graduating with an MS in Geology.


Ryan Klida is graduating with an MS in Geological Engineering.


Shubham Mahajan is graduating with an MS in Geological Engineering.


Sienna Meekhoff

Sienna Meekhoff will soon graduate with a BS in Geology. Sienna had this to say about her time at Michigan Tech:  “The highlight of my time here would have to be my involvement with the Geology Club and our AIPG student chapter. They really got me to open up to other students in and outside our department. I had several traveling opportunities with them, too, like our spring break trips to Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee as well as the AIPG national conferences in Burlington, Vermont, and Sacramento, California. I am going to miss the Keweenaw Peninsula the most. I love swimming in Lake Superior and finding agates on the beaches as well as skiing with the amazing scenery Ripley and Bohemia have to offer.”


Emily Pray

Emilie Pray will soon graduate with a BS in Geology. After graduation, Emilie plans to stay at Michigan Tech to pursue an MS in Geology. The highlight of her time here so far has been the undergraduate research she’s conducted. Through it, she was able to learn a lot about the geology of the Upper Peninsula outside of the classroom. She studied some of the oldest rocks in the region! Working in the lab and collecting data were the hands-on experiences she wanted during her studies at Tech.


Hannah Hunt

Hannah Hunt will soon graduate with a BS in Geology. Hannah is pictured using a Geonics EM-16 VLF receiver at Taylor Mine.


Cristhian Salas ’21 finished this summer, earning an MS in Geology. More details to come.


Sanna Mairet ’21 finished this summer and earned an MS in Geology. Info coming soon.


Kay Sivaraj ’21 finished this summer, graduating with an MS in Geology. Stay tuned for more details.


Stepan Pikul ’21 finished this summer, earning an MS in Geology. Check back later for full details.

Summer Field Geophysics Becomes More Affordable: Thanks to Carl Schwenk!

Jeremy Shannon and GMES students gather for a celebration picnic after final presentations.

Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Carl Schwenk our unique summer course in Field Geophysics has now become more affordable for our students. Starting this past summer, the Carl G. Schwenk Field Geophysics Lab Endowment began to cover all course expenses not tuition related, such as annual costs for travel, field supplies, periodic equipment maintenance, instrument rental, and equipment replacement. This support made it possible to reimburse the hefty $450 laboratory fee in full to each student who took the course this year. And no laboratory fee will be required for Field Geophysics in the future, starting in summer 2022.

“We all here in the GMES department are very grateful to Carl, who has made significant professional contributions to field geophysics and mineral exploration throughout his career,” says Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, “As an alum, he remains closely and actively involved with our department, providing tremendous support to our students over the years.” 

Schwenk earned a BS in both Geological and Geophysical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1962 and 1965, respectively. He worked as a Field Geophysicist with Kennecott Copper Corporation and was instrumental in the discovery of the Flambeau copper-gold Mine in Wisconsin. Later, he worked with the large iron company Vale do Rio Doce exploring for base metals in Brazil. After his return to the USA, he was hired as Great Lakes District Manager for Noranda Exploration and led a successful State Supreme Court challenge to Wisconsin’s Geologic Disclosure Law. 

Principal Lecturer Jeremy Shannon, Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics, teaches the Field Geophysics courses at Michigan Tech. “This is a great gift for our students and I can’t wait to share Carl’s story of his contribution each summer,” he says. “The cost of equipment and resources used in the class is significant, but inevitably spread out over time scales that are beyond any student’s undergraduate career. Thus students are often left wondering what their lab fees are really being used for. Carl’s gift takes a dent out of the ever-increasing cost of a college education while ensuring that students will continue to have access to modern geophysical instrumentation.”  

Olivia Salvagio, an applied geophysics senior, adds: “Field Geophysics was where I learned that I wanted to continue my education on near surface geophysics in graduate school! I was so intrigued by each of the methods and the equipment that we used and the broad applications that they have to Earth science.”

Emilie Pray, a geology senior, had this to say: “Field Geophysics was the class that fully cemented the concepts learned in the classroom into real-world applications. Along with practice in technical writing skills and group work in the field, I believe this class has prepared me well for my future career.”

MTU Mining Engineering Program Earns Rigorous ABET Accreditation

Matthew Portfleet (yellow shirt), director of Michigan Tech’s Mine Safety Program, explains the intricacies of rock drilling to geology student Elana Barth ’21. Matt teaches the Drilling and Blasting course for the BS Mining Engineering program in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.

Michigan Technological University’s bachelor’s degree program in mining engineering has been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.

ABET accreditation assures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies, and anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.

Michigan Tech’s mining engineering program is one of only 13 such degree programs across the nation to earn ABET accreditation. In total, 13 different ABET-accredited degree programs are now offered by the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech.

“ABET accreditation is a significant achievement,” said Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES). “We have worked hard to ensure that our program meets the quality standards set by the profession. And, because it requires comprehensive, periodic evaluations, ABET accreditation demonstrates our continuing commitment to the quality of our program — both now and in the future.”

“This is a recognition by ABET that our students and the program meet the accreditation standards,” said Leonard Bohmann, Michigan Tech’s associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering. “It signals to students that when they come here they will receive a strong education in mining engineering that has been rigorously reviewed. It informs employers that they can be confident that our students have an outstanding education in mining engineering. And, with an ABET accredited degree, students can become licensed professional engineers.”

“This success came through the dedicated and indefatigable efforts by Professor John Gierke, who served as department chair from 2014 to 2020, and our superb mining engineering faculty, Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee and Senior Lecturer Nathan Manser,” added Smirnov. “Outstanding clerical support was provided by department staff Brittany Buschell and Carol Asiala.”

The pandemic created additional challenges during the accreditation process, but also opportunities, noted Gierke. “The responses to the onset of the pandemic in 2020 disrupted the installation of mine ventilation lab equipment. In addition, videos and video calling were required for the facilities tours as part of the virtual site visit. The need to thoroughly review the facilities was extra challenging in the virtual format.”

Despite the fact that their final few months had to be conducted remotely, the adaptability of the students during their mining engineering senior capstone project — along with their advisor, Nathan Manser — allowed that project to conclude on several high notes. “The senior students quickly learned how to use mine design software remotely, how to meet on Zoom and collaborate online,” Gierke said. “They probably didn’t realize it at the time, but with their increased use of remote collaborations in professional work, the students all got some accelerated practice.”

Michigan Tech’s degree program in mining engineering was reinstated in 2019 after a 15-year hiatus. In order to apply for accreditation, however, GMES had to wait until at least one student graduated with the degree. “We graduated our first three students in the spring of 2020,” said Smirnov.

“The University is proud to see mining returning as an ABET-accredited program,” said Jacqueline Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Michigan Tech was initially founded to support the mining industry and it is exciting to see us reaffirm our commitment to excellence for this segment of industry.”

Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer review process is highly respected because it adds critical value to academic programs in the technical disciplines, where quality, precision and safety are of the utmost importance.

Developed by technical professionals from ABET’s member societies, ABET criteria focus on what students experience and learn. ABET accreditation reviews look at program curricula, faculty, facilities and institutional support, and are conducted by teams of highly skilled professionals from industry, academia and government, with expertise in the ABET disciplines.

ABET is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with ISO 9001:2015 certification. It currently accredits 4,307 programs at 846 colleges and universities in 41 countries and areas.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Snehamoy Chatterjee Named Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering

Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee, Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering

Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee  is the new Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering, named in July 2021.

“Dr. Chatterjee has been instrumental in developing Michigan Tech’s new interdisciplinary Mining Engineering program,” said Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES). “He teaches courses in the program, and very skillfully incorporates research into his instruction.”

Chatterjee’s position as Fellow is made possible through the generous support provided by Nancy Witte and her family, in memory of her late husband Richard C. Witte, who received a BS in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Tech) in 1950. After graduating from Michigan Tech, Witte went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law in 1956, then worked for Proctor and Gamble as a patent attorney. Witte was admitted to the bars of Indiana and Ohio, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, and the US Supreme Court, and filed more than 1400 patents before he retired in 1992 as vice president and chief patent counsel for Proctor and Gamble Worldwide. 

“The future of the mining industry is transforming in the digital age,” says Chatterjee. “Our students need to understand the traditional mining engineering techniques that have dominated the industry for generations, but also be technically savvy enough to see how the newest digital innovations might fit into a better decision making or engineering design process. I am grateful to Nancy Witte and the Witte family for this endowment and the tremendous support it provides toward this important endeavor.”

Decision-making under uncertainty, a research focus for Chatterjee, is one example, says Smirnov. “Students in one of Dr. Chatterjee’s courses, called Resource and Reserve Estimation, first learn how to quantify uncertainty based on spatial and temporal data. In his next course, Mine Planning and Design, they learn how to integrate that uncertainty into their mine plan using stochastic optimization methods.”

“Dr. Chatterjee’s outstanding achievements and contributions to our newly reinstated mining engineering program make him an ideal candidate for this faculty fellow position.”

Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering

In addition, Chatterjee works with undergraduate student researchers in his lab, and encourages them to present their findings at national or international conferences. Several have published their studies in peer-reviewed journals, as well.

“While at Michigan Tech working with Dr. Chatterjee, Alex Miltenberger ’17, a geophysics major, presented his SURF research work at Geostat, an international conference in geostatistics,” notes Smirnov. Miltenberger is now postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & Stanford University.

“Another student working with Dr. Chatterjee, Katie Kring, published her SURF research in the International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences,” he adds. Before graduating from Michigan Tech with both a BS and MS in Geological Engineering, Kring interned at Freeport-McMoRan’s Chico Mine. She now works as a Civil Engineer at US Army Corps of Engineers.

Chatterjee also encourages his undergraduate research students to submit proposals for external funding. Current geophysics student Grace Ojala recently received a Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) grant to research mining slope movement using synthetic aperture radar data. 

Chatterjee has been recognized nationally and internationally through several professional and editorial awards, and invited presentations and seminar talks. Recently, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed him to the Michigan’s Future Mining Committee. Chatterjee was chosen to represent current or former research faculty members who hold a master’s or doctorate degree in mining or geology at a university in Michigan.

Richard Witte, throughout his career and even after his retirement, served on numerous federal, state and local commissions, delegations and boards, addressing a variety of international diplomatic and intellectual property policies.

“Dr. Chatterjee’s appointment as Witte Fellow aligns perfectly with the objectives formulated by the Witte family and Michigan Tech,” said Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Our shared goal is to retain and attract high quality faculty who are at the top of their profession, inspire students to think beyond the classroom material, and integrate their research into the classroom.”

Jeremy Shannon Named Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Michigan Tech Principal Lecturer Jeremy Shannon is the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Jeremy Shannon is the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics, named in July 2021. 

“For more than a decade Dr. Jeremy Shannon has been a key faculty in field geophysics at Michigan Tech,” said Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. 

“Dr. Shannon provides vital contributions to GMES instruction and advising, especially through the summer Field Geophysics course and specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. 

The endowment was established by Carl G. Schwenk, who obtained a BS in both Geological and Geophysical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1962 and 1965, respectively. He worked as a Field Geophysicist with Kennecott Copper Corporation and was instrumental in the discovery of the Flambeau copper-gold Mine in Wisconsin. Later, he worked with the  large iron company Vale do Rio Doce exploring for base metals in Brazil. After his return to the US he was hired as Great Lakes District Manager for Noranda Exploration where he led a successful State Supreme Court challenge to Wisconsin’s Geologic Disclosure Law. 

“Carl lives in Colorado and remains closely involved with our department, providing tremendous support to our students,” said Smirnov.

Shannon is also a Michigan Tech alumnus, and took the Field Geophysics class as an undergraduate in the summer of 1992. He was honored to take over the class in 2007 and has continued and built upon the legacy of applied geophysics education at GMES created by professors Lloyal Bacon, Jimmy Diehl, and Charles Young to deliver a unique field experience for students.

“I am humbled to receive this appointment and am extremely grateful to Mr. Schwenk and others who have made this possible,” said Shannon. “I look forward to using this gift to improve and advance educational opportunities in geophysics at Michigan Tech.”

“Shannon’s contribution to the department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences perfectly aligns with the purpose of the fellowship, which is to provide leadership in mentoring and teaching students at Michigan Tech in the practical use of geophysics for characterization and discovery of subsurface resources,” added Callahan.

In addition to instruction in the field of applied geophysics, which includes specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods, Shannon serves as the academic advisor for undergraduate students majoring in Geology and Applied Geophysics.

Shannon generously lends his expertise to students working on senior design projects, as well as graduate students whose research involves field work, notes Smirnov. “Dr. Shannon helps students develop both practical knowledge and intuition. As a result, they are able to find their own best academic and professional pathways, leading to impactful and rewarding careers.” 

In recognition of his contributions to teaching, Shannon was also recently honored in the Michigan Tech Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Michigan Tech Alumni & Friends: Join us in Phoenix on Sunday, Feb. 23 for our SME Pasty Social

The Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences (GMES) Department invites Michigan Tech alumni and families for a pasty social in Phoenix, Arizona. Join us on Sunday, Feb. 23, from 6-9 pm, at the Cornish Pasty Co., 7 West Monroe St. in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

The GMES Department will provide the first round and some appetizers. Alumni prizes to be raffled off with no purchase required. For those attending the SME Conference, this event is in lieu of the traditional conference social on Tuesday.

GMES will buy the first round. Join us!

All alumni & friends are welcome to join us for this casual evening out! Faculty and students will be in attendance. We hope that alumni and friends attending SME or are otherwise in the local area will join us and bring your families. Please register here: http://www.cvent.com/d/mnq8v8

We are so pleased to announce that our first design team in the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition has advanced to the second phase of the competition, which occurs at the upcoming SME Conference. Our team was among the top six to advance. Read more here.

Craving a pasty and curious about the history and recipes? Check out this article from MTU Archives: “There’s something about a pasty that is fine, fine, fine!”

ERUPT: Report Identifies Grand Challenges for Scientific Community to Better Prepare for Volcanic Eruptions

Despite broad understanding of volcanoes, our ability to predict the timing, duration, type, size, and consequences of volcanic eruptions is limited, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Meanwhile, millions of people live in volcanically active areas around the world.

 

ERUPT - NAP report
ERUPT: A National Academies report published in April 2017

Volcanic Eruptions and Their Repose, Unrest, Precursors, and Timing (ERUPT) identifies grand challenges for the scientific community to better prepare for volcanic eruptions. Michigan Tech volcanologist Simon Carn (GMES) was an author on the report, and served with 11 other volcanologists and scientists on the Committee on Improving Understanding of Volcanic Eruptions that prepared the report. Their goal: improving eruption forecasting and warnings to save lives.

According to the NAP media release on the report, “Volcano monitoring is critical for forecasting eruptions and mitigating risks of their hazards. However, few volcanoes are adequately observed, and many are not monitored at all. For example, fewer than half of the 169 potentially active volcanoes in the US have any seismometers–an instrument to detect small earthquakes that signal underground magma movement. And only three have continuous gas measurements, which are crucial because the composition and quantity of dissolved gases in magma drive eruptions. Enhanced monitoring combined with advances in experimental and mathematical models of volcanic processes can improve the understanding and forecasting of eruptions.”

“This report was requested by NASA, NSF and USGS, the three main sources of funding for volcano science in the US, to identify some of the grand challenges in the field,” says Carn. “It was a privilege to serve on this distinguished committee and help craft a document that we hope will guide and strengthen future research efforts in volcanology.”

“The National Academies convenes committees of experts to review the current understanding of pressing issues and identify priorities for future progress in addressing the issues,” adds Michigan Tech  Department Chair John Gierke (GMES). “Committee reports play important roles in formulating government policies and setting priorities for funding scientific research. Dr. Carn is a global leader in remote sensing for monitoring volcanic emissions and surely contributed a comprehensive assessment of the state of knowledge and recommend how different disciplinary fields could bring new perspectives and approaches to advance the understanding of volcanic hazards.”

Electronic (free) and hard copies ($40) of Volcanic Eruptions and Their Repose, Unrest, Precursors, and Timing are available online. More information is available in the NAP media release about the report.

The 2016– 2017 Eruption of Bogoslof Volcano, Aleutian Islands, United States

Bogoslof, a remote, mostly submarine volcano in the Aleutian Island arc began erupting in late December 2016 and activity continues as of February 2017. The Bogoslof eruption highlights several of the challenges facing volcano science. Over one month, the volcano produced numerous explosions with plumes rising 20,000–35,000 ft, posing a significant hazard to North Pacific aviation. There are no ground-based instruments (e.g., seismometers) on the volcano, and so the USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has been relying on distant seismometers, satellite data, infrasound, and lightning detection to monitor activity (Challenge 3). Bogoslof’s submerged vent obscures any preemptive thermal or gas signals, and infrasound and lightning are detectable only after eruptions have begun (Challenge 1). AVO has been unable to provide early warning of these hazardous events. The eruption also highlights our limited understanding of magma–water interactions and raises important questions regarding the controls on phreatomagmatic explosivity, column altitude, ash removal, and pauses (Challenge 2). In more than 20 discrete events, the emerging volcano has reshaped its coastlines repeatedly, providing snapshots of volcano–landscape interactions. The figure below shows the first evidence for an ash-rich (brown-grey) plume, almost one month into the eruptive activity.

Excerpted from Volcanic Eruptions and Their Repose, Unrest, Precursors, and Timing, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, April 2017

 

Bogoslof Volcano
Image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite showing an eruption plume from Bogoslof volcano on January 18, 2017. The red dot at the base of the eruption cloud is a thermal anomaly on the volcanic edifice. Inset shows a high-resolution image of the volcano from January 11, 2017, with subsequent morphological changes indicated (image courtesy of USGS/AVO).