Category Archives: News

Simon Carn Clarifies the Role of Volcanic Eruptions in Climate Change

Effusive Volcanic Flow showing lava traveling down a road.
Flow from an effusive volcanic eruption, courtesy of USGS.

Simon Carn (GMES) was quoted in the article “Why Is a Climate Change Skeptic Headlining Science Conferences?” in the Daily Beast. Carn refutes statements made by retired geophysicist Peter Ward that volcanic eruptions, not greenhouse gasses, are responsible for climate change. Ward made the comments in an address to the Geological Society of America.

Why Is a Climate Change Skeptic Headlining Science Conferences?

The Geological Society of America—the country’s premier research and professional organization for geologists—met in Indianapolis earlier this month.

Amidst the otherwise nerdy, sleepy lectures on volcanoes, rocks, and other natural formations was one from Peter L. Ward, a retired geophysicist, who delivered a talk on how volcanic eruptions—not greenhouse gases—are behind climate change.

That’s odd, since the role of greenhouse gas emissions as the primary cause driving climate change is universally backed by scientists.

“Peter Ward has claimed that ‘all’ volcanic eruptions deplete ozone, including the type we call ‘effusive,’ like the eruption of Kilauea that occurred last summer in Hawaii,” volcanologist Simon Carn, an associate professor [now full professor] at Michigan Tech, told The Daily Beast.

Effusive eruptions, in which lava steadily flows out of a volcano onto the ground, typically inject gases to much lower altitudes than explosive eruptions. That means they’re highly unlikely to deplete ozone. “They don’t produce very much chlorine/bromine, and the emissions do not reach the stratosphere where the ozone layer is located,” Carn explained. “His ideas linking volcanic eruptions to ozone depletion and global warming are completely unsubstantiated.”

Read more at the Daily Beast, by Bahar Gholipour.


Robbins Donates Smoky Quartz and Jade to Mineral Museum

Richard and Bonnie Robbins
Richard and Bonnie Robbins

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum announced the generous donation of a collection of minerals from Richard and Bonnie Robbins. Richard graduated with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1956. He assumed leadership of the Robbins Company, specializing in tunnel-boring technology including boring of the “chunnel” beneath the English Channel. Michigan Tech has recognized Robbins for his professional achievements and university engagement, including the Board of Control Silver Medal in 1990, Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1994, Honorary Doctorate of Engineering in 1996, National Campaign Chair for the 1999-2002 Leaders in Innovation Campaign, which raised $135 million, and the 2001 Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction. Robbins and his wife Bonnie have established the James S. Robbins Endowed Scholarship in honor of Richard’s father and three endowed faculty chairs, the Robbins Chairs of Sustainability.

Richard Robbins had a passion for collecting smoky quartz crystals. His collection includes outstanding specimens from classic smoky quartz localities in the Swiss Alps including a high-quality clear smoky quartz crystal rising off white quartz from Uri, Switzerland. Another particularly notable specimen is a dark smoky quartz crystal with a white cap and fibrous tourmaline from Senora, Mexico. His collection includes multiple smoky crystals from Brazil with one large crystal showing hopper growth, as well as crystals from Himalaya, California, Montana, Pakistan, Tunisia, Arkansas, and New York. A large cluster of smoky quartz crystals on microcline from Colorado was still on display in the lobby of Robbins Company before the collection was shipped to Michigan Tech this past summer. This specimen is now on exhibit at the museum.

In his youth, Robbins spent lots of time prospecting for his father in Alaska. He recounts collecting jade from “Jade Mountain” in the Baird Mountains of the Brooks Range just north of the Kobuk River drainage in Alaska. In addition to the smoky quartz collection, Richard and Bonnie donated 275 lbs of Alaskan jade to the museum. The smoky quartz and jade represent significant additions to the museum’s collection. “I’m particularly pleased that the museum can preserve the legacy of Richard’s passion for minerals,” says Ted Bornhorst, executive director of the museum.

By the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.



New Gallery Opening at A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum

CopperThe A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum announces the opening of its newest gallery “Mining Minerals.” Many of the minerals in Michigan Tech’s collection are by-products of mining. The Mining Minerals gallery complements the adjacent “Minerals and You” gallery which demonstrates how minerals are important in our everyday lives through four exhibit cases showing many examples of uses of minerals, an exhibit case focused on minerals used in your car, and one focused on the uses of copper. Since minerals come from mines and they are a critical component of modern life, the new gallery is designed to help visitors better understand the entire mining cycle from beginning to end.

“A gallery focused on mining fits well with Michigan Tech’s origin in 1885 as the Michigan Mining School and with the museum’s mission to educate people about minerals” says Ted Bornhorst, the musuem’s executive director.

The new gallery consists of five exhibit showcases beginning with an outline of the types of Earth resources and an overview of the mining process.

The second exhibit case presents the activities necessary before a mine is created from exploring to discovery of a potential mineable resource which is followed by intense studies including design of the mining facility, environmental considerations, economics, mine closure and application for a mining permit.

Once the permit is approved, then the mining industrial complex can be constructed for an open-pit or underground mine as described in the third exhibit case. Mineral resources require simple to complex processing to make them ready for industrial applications as illustrated in the fourth exhibit case.

The last phase of the life of a mine is closure, the fifth exhibit case. The mine closure exhibit touches upon removal and repurposing of the surface mining infrastructure, reuse of non-hazardous mining waste and minimizing the impact of hazardous waste. The all-encompassing concept of sustainable or green mining is introduced.

The new Mining Minerals gallery is innovative as compared to mineral museums elsewhere because it covers the entire mining cycle in a holistic way, directly connects to the uses of minerals and augments the other mineral exhibits in the museum.

The museum welcomes the University and broader community to visit the museum to learn more about minerals and mining. Admission is waived for current Michigan Tech students as well as faculty and staff and their professional guests. Until November, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

By the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.


Federal Mine Safety Training Grant

Mine SafetyHOUGHTON, Mich. (AP) – Michigan Technological University in Houghton will receive nearly $253,000 in funding from the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The grant is part of more than $10 million awarded to 46 states, the Navajo Nation, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands to support safety and health courses and other programs.

The funds will provide miners with federally mandated training. It covers miners working at surface and underground coal and metal and nonmetal mines, including those in shell dredging or employed at surface stone, sand and gravel mining operations.

By Associated Press.

Mine Safety and Health at Michigan Tech


Upcoming Outdoor Exhibits at the Museum

View of part of the garden and pathways near the museum.
Phyllis and John Seaman Garden

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum is looking forward to a new exhibit in the Phyllis and John Seaman Garden. A recently donated specimen of float copper, weighing approximately 400 lbs., with a beautiful green patina will become a center piece in the garden next spring after a stand is fabricated.

The specimen was donated by Val Vaughan-Drong of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota and Karen Brown of San Antonio, Texas in honor of their late parents Harry and Aili Vaughan. The float copper was discovered on the Vaughan property off Pike River Road near Chassell.

A second new outside exhibit will be located in an extension of the garden towards the Copper Pavilion. Patricia Carlon, of Bloomington, Illinois, donated a kibble to the museum in honor of her late husband, John Carlon, who was a long-time mineral dealer. A kibble is an iron bucket that was used to raise ore and waste rock from early mine shafts in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The kibble was found at the Robbins, or West Vein Mine, near Phoenix by a local deer hunter about 50 years ago and sold to a mineral dealer who resold it to Carlon.

Michigan Tech geology alumnus Ross Lillie ’79, owner of North Star Minerals in Traverse City, helped connect Carlon to the museum. Lillie describes this 1860s vintage kibble as a “historically significant, desirable mining artifact in outstanding condition with superlative provenance.” The kibble will go on exhibit next spring after a custom-designed display is constructed.

By the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.


Gierke and Oommen Present in Tbilisi

NATO 's Science for Peace and Security banner graphic

John Gierke, professor and chair of GMES and Thomas Oommen (GMES) presented collaborative work on “Field Data Collection and Slope Stability Analysis in the Vicinity of the Enguri Dam” and “External Loadings and Landslide Hazards at Enguri,” respectively, at the culminating meeting for the international project funded by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security: “SfP G4934 Security Against Geohazards at the Major Enguri Hydroelectric Scheme in Georgia.”

The meeting was held Sept. 12, 2018, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Michigan Tech project work that was presented included contributions from MS Geology graduate Maria Diletta Acciaro and BS Geological Engineering graduates Carolyn Lucca, Zack Fleming, Nicole Bird and Erica Anderson.


Bornhorst Named to State Environmental Permit Review Commission

Ted Bornhorst
Ted Bornhorst

Ted Bornhorst, executive director of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum and professor of geology at Michigan Tech, is among the initial appointments made by Governor Rick Snyder to the state’s Environmental Permit Review Commission. Bornhorst was appointed to a three-year term.

The commission, established by Public Act 268 of 2018, is comprised of 15 members which can be called upon by the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to review and advise on permit applications.

Bornhorst has previously served the state of Michigan on environmental-related topics. From 1983 to 1998, he was involved at the state level as an advisor on the topic of radioactive waste disposal, first on the Governor’s task force on high-level radioactive waste followed by an appointment by Governor James Blanchard to the Radioactive Waste Control Committee legislated by Michigan Public Act 190 of 1985.

Bornhorst chaired the Siting Criteria Advisory Committee for Michigan’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Authority from 1988 to 1989 which created screening criteria to select a site while protecting the environment and public health.

His involvement on the topic of radioactive waste continued until Michigan withdrew from the Midwest Interstate Radioactive Waste Compact. Bornhorst served the State of Michigan from 2004 to 2008 in an advisory capacity in the areas of metallic mineral leasing, regulation of metallic mineral exploration and mining, administrative rules for Michigan’s non-ferrous metallic mining regulations and the mineral wells advisory committee.

The work group’s efforts on the regulation of metallic mineral exploration and mining resulted in State of Michigan law Part 632, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994 as amended, also known as Michigan’s nonferrous metallic mining regulations Part 632.

Most recently, in 2016, he published a peer-reviewed article in the international journal Economic Geology on predicting water quality impact from mining wastes.

Upon being asked by Governor Snyder to serve on this commission Bornhorst simply remarked “I’m honored to serve the people of the state of Michigan.”

Dennis Bittner of Gladstone is the only other member of the commission from the Upper Peninsula.

By the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.


Emily Gochis, Ph.D. Candidate, Appointed As New MiSTEM Director

Emily Gochis, Ph.D. candidate in GMES has been appointed as the director of the MiSTEM network in Region 16 of Michigan, which covers Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon, Baraga, and Gogebic counties.emilypc

The new regional network, which replaces the Western U.P. Math and Science Center, has been established to form partnerships and strategies that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and career pathways. These careers are often difficult to experience before a student reaches college when it becomes expensive to explore different career options. Presenting K-12 students with opportunities to experience hands-on STEM applications lets them consider these careers for themselves before making a college choice.

“I’m going out and communicating with anybody and everybody that does anything with science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the region, just trying to connect with all of them in order to create these new opportunities,” Gochis said.

Emily’s PhD advisor, John Gierke, had this to say about the new role that Emily will have in our region’s schools: “While we are certainly proud of Emily’s accomplishments that led to this appointment, we are very happy for the schools of the Western Upper Peninsula and the new opportunities that Emily will facilitate.” Gierke has worked with Emily since she completed her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and notes that, “Her skills, creativity, and enthusiasm are vast. I am always amazed at her experience in teaching, research and service and how she puts those experiences together in building new educational programs and activities. We are certainly lucky that she is in this new role.”

Read more at the Daily Mining Gazette

 

Pictured: Emily Gochis as a PCV in El Salvador, contributing to our hazards research as car-battery sherpa. The batteries are used to power monitoring equipment on the volcanoes.

 


NSF Funding for Kenneth Hinkel on Catastrophic Thermokarst Lake Drainage

Kenneth Hinkel
Kenneth Hinkel

Kenneth Hinkel (GMES/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $75,436 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is titled “Collaborative Research: Causes and Consequences of Catastrophic Thermokarst Lake Drainage in an Evolving Arctic System.” This is a three-year project.

By Sponsored Programs.

Extract

Lakes are abundant features on coastal plains of the Arctic, providing important fish and wildlife habitat and water supply for villages and industry, but also interact with frozen ground (permafrost) and the carbon it stores. Most of these lakes are termed “thermokarst” because they form in ice-rich permafrost and gradually expand over time. The dynamic nature of thermokarst lakes also makes them prone to catastrophic drainage and abrupt conversion to wetlands, called drained thermokarst lake basins (DTLBs). Together, thermokarst lakes and DTLBs cover up to 80% of arctic lowland regions, making understanding their response to ongoing climate change essential for coastal plain environmental assessment.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.