Category: Research

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

GMES Professors Ranked Among the Top Scientists in 2022

Numerical indices support what every volcanologist knows: Bill Rose ranks among the top scientists in 2022. Research.com compiles and analyzes publication data, including citations and h-index of scholars worldwide. In the Earth science field, over 6,400 scientists were evaluated, and professor emeritus Bill Rose is ranked 97th in the U.S. and 179th globally.

Bill came to Michigan Tech after obtaining his Ph.D. in geology at Dartmouth College. His graduate studies included field studies of active volcanoes across Pacific Latin America. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 brought his expertise to the forefront in the US, and the geology graduate program grew in terms of number and reputation. His entire career, save for sabbaticals, has been at Michigan Tech, where he has supervised 23 Ph.D. and 57 M.S. students. He has authored and co-authored over 200 publications, which as of this ranking, were cited in more than 16,000 other publications, yielding an h-index of 81.

Bill served as chair of the GMES department from 1990 to 1998. After returning to faculty full-time, he led the development of two international programs that greatly impacted the international reputation of the department. Every volcano observatory in the US has Ph.D. scientists on staff who are former students of Bill. If you walk into a volcano observatory around the world wearing a Michigan Tech emblem, invariably, someone will ask if you “know Bill Rose.”


Professor Simon Carn in the field at Kilauea volcano (Hawaii) in 2018 (with lava in the background).

Also recognized for his contributions to Earth sciences is GMES professor, Simon Carn, who is ranked 849th in the U.S. and 1,929 globally. Simon’s work has 8,021 citations in the areas of volcanology, remote sensing, and volcanic degassing.

https://research.com/scientists-rankings/earth-science

GMES Student Travels with Women in Physics

Geophysics Ph.D. student Gabriel Ahrendt recently participated in an outreach activity at the Gwinn HS organized by Michigan Tech Women in Physics. On April 28th, he and the six other chapter members visited Daniel Kelpela’s junior and senior physics classes to give presentations on each member’s research and their particular concentrations in physics— including geophysics, atmospheric physics, applied physics, materials science, and astrophysics.

Gabriel presented his research on using rock magnetism for mineral exploration, structural mapping, and tectonic studies using paleomagnetism, as well as the timing of the Earth’s early inner core formation.

Gabriel Ahrendt presenting to high school students.

The 70 high schoolers received a basic rundown of the researchers’ projects, including a basic synopsis of the topic, methodology, and raison d’etre. Here, the students received some insight into applied and theoretical physics research such as magnetic geodynamo,  simulations of ice nucleation and cloud seeding, phone battery design and production of synthetic magnets, studies on the effect of airborne particulates on climate, and the search for dark energy. 

During the demonstrations, the students were able to ask more personal questions of the researchers and share their interests after finishing high school. A few showed interest in attending Michigan Tech for geology and geophysics!

After the presentations, the students walked around to 10 different demonstrations of basic physical principles ranging from concepts like static friction — where two students tried to rip apart two phonebooks connected by having their pages intercalated,  to concepts like resonance, where they made water vibrate through the audible properties of a brass bowl. Other demos included showing optical principles of diffraction through laser pointers diffracting off of CDs and DVDs, and conservation of momentum while spinning. Gabriel presented principles of rock magnetism by differentiating magnetic minerals by measuring their susceptibility and physical properties. 

Gabriel’s Ph.D. research is supported by the USA National Science Foundation and the US Geological Survey. He is advised by Dr. Aleksey Smirnov.  

Pictured left to right, back to front:
Tong Gao, Elise Rosky, Oindabi Mukherjee, Sushree Dash, Rita Wilson, James Turkovich, Shreya Joshi, Gabriel Ahrendt, Miraj Kayastha

GMES Mining Engineering Program Successful at the Annual SME Conference & Expo

GMES Mining Engineering Program Successful at the Annual SME Conference & Expo

After a two-year pandemic hiatus for in-person meetings, the mining engineering faculty and students came back stronger than ever to the 2022 Annual Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Conference & Expo. Held in Salt Lake City, from February 27, through March 2, 2022, GMES faculty and students had a great time presenting their research, receiving awards, and connecting with alumni.

We thank the Richard Saccany Mining Program Fund, the Robert Hendricks Mining Endowment Fund, and all our friends who contributed to the Mining and Material Processing Engineering Fund. These financial contributions made it possible to support the travel for a large group of students to obtain first-hand exposure to the most recent advances in mining engineering research and practice, network with industry professionals, and explore future career paths.

Research Presentations


Associate Professor and a Witte Family Faculty Fellow, Snehamoy Chatterjee, delivered two oral presentations:

  • Development of Machine Learning Models for Identifying Mining Injury Risk Factors Using Leading Indicators (co-authored by Pooja M, Aref Majdara, Hugh Miller, and Rennie Kaunda
  • PixelMPS: A Python Toolbox for Multiple-Point Geostatistics (co-authored by Karthik Menon, Poorva Kadroli, and Adel Asadi)

Dr. Chatterjee’s MS student, David Porter, delivered an oral presentation:

  • Utilization of Geostatistical Methods to Estimate Localized Cemented Rock Fill Strength in Underground Mass Placements

Dr. Chatterjee’s MS student, Dharmasai Eshwar Reddy Sirigiri, presented a poster:

  • An Entropy-based Risk Index (ERI) of Mining Health and Safety using Unsupervised Machine Learning Algorithms

The GMES support group at Dharmasai’s poster is pictured from left to right: David Porter, Emily Street, Poorva Kadrolli, Dharmasai Eshar Reddy Sirigiri, Cade Johnson, Ian Gannon, Jake Maxon, and Dr. Nathan Manser.


Recognitions


Dr. Nathan Manser, a Professor of Practice in mining engineering, and Emily Street, a senior in mining engineering, were recognized for their achievements.

Dr. Nathan Manser received the Robert W. Piekarz award that recognizes exceptional service to the Industrial Minerals and Aggregates Division for work related to managing technical session content for the annual conference.

Emily Street received two academic awards: the SMEF/MMSA Presidential Scholarship, which recognizes excellent academic performance in a minerals engineering-related field. The Gerald V. Henderson Memorial Scholarship supports students who express a special interest in career paths that align with industrial minerals and aggregates industries. Emily was also invited to present a talk related to her internship experience with Lafarge-Holcim during the Industrial Minerals and Aggregates Division luncheon.

Alumni Connections


As part of the week-long activities at SME, the GMES department hosted an alumni engagement event at Gracie’s Gastropub on Sunday night. About 45 people attended and participated in the two-hour social event. Alumni, hailing from several MTU departments and coming from classes in the mid-1980s through our most recent graduates, were in attendance and truly demonstrated the vast network, especially in the geoscience and minerals industries. Also in attendance were a few members of the Industrial Advisory Board for Mining Engineering at MTU who came to rekindle some meaningful connections with students and alumni alike. Overall, everyone had a great time, and plans for the event next February in Denver are already underway!

Fun


The MTU Student Chapter of SME participated in the Komatsu Student Night at the conference, a 1920’s themed event with over 300 attendees from schools worldwide. The highlight of the evening was a quiz-bowl competition between the schools based on materials handling calculations, where students from MTU placed second in the event.

Pictured left to right: Dharmasai Eshwar Reddy Sirigiri, Cade Johnson, Jake Maxon, Ian Gannon, Poorva Kadrolli, Matthew Portfleet, Nathan Johnson, Emily Street.


Other SME Activities


The MTU Director of Mine Safety, Matt Portfleet, joined by mine safety trainers Marisa Roerig and Ron Gradowski, also attended the conference. Marisa and Matt both enrolled in and took the Certified Mine Safety Professional (CMSP) exam after partaking in a 3-day CMSP review course. They both passed!

Emily Street pictured with Immersive Virtual Reality

MTU Geology Major Assists in Tracking Uplift at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Oregon

The area around Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon is moving, and geology MS student, and NAGT/USGS intern Natalea Cohen, demonstrates the portable GPS monitoring equipment used to track it. Uplift, a subtle rise in the ground’s surface, is monitored by the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory. Could magma underground be to blame? See how radar satellite data and GPS equipment come together to get scientists one step closer to knowing the truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QfARy8zPEk

Nat Cohen Volcano Picture
Natalea Cohen, pictured, received the 2021 NAGT/USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Internship before joining MTU.

Chad Deering on Key Links in the Evolution of Earth’s Rock Cycle and Its Ocean

Chad Deering
Chad Deering

Chad Deering (GMES) was quoted in a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh news story picked up by Science Daily and Phys.org. The story explains how a study led by Deering and UW-Oshkosh geologist Timothy Paulsen links zircon data from sandstones recovered from Earth’s major continental landmasses to the evolution of the Earth’s rock cycle and its oceans. Snehamoy Chatterjee (GMES) is also a co-author on the study.

“Continents tend to be worn down by weathering and rivers tend to transport this sediment to the oceans, leaving scattered puzzle pieces for geologists to fit together,” said Chad Deering, a Michigan Tech geologist and coauthor on the paper. “There is increasing evidence that important pieces of the puzzle are found in the ancient beach and river sediments produced through continental weathering and erosion.”

Read more at UW Oshkosh Today, by Natalie Johnson.

Continental Magmatism and Uplift as the Primary Driver for First-Order Oceanic 87Sr/86Sr Variability with Implications for Global Climate and Atmospheric Oxygenation
T. Paulsen, C. Deering, J. Sliwinski, S. Chatterjee, and O. Bachman
GSA Today, pp. 4–10, 2022.
doi.org/10.1130/GSATG526A.1

Simon Carn Comments on Tonga Eruption

Umbrella cloud from the volcanic eruption.
Umbrella cloud from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai eruption, captured by NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17).

A powerful volcanic eruption has obliterated a small, uninhabited South Pacific island known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai. Damage assessments are still ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that some communities in the island nation of Tonga have been severely damaged by volcanic ash and significant tsunami waves.

“The umbrella cloud was about 500 kilometers (300 miles) in diameter at its maximum extent,” said Michigan Tech volcanologist Simon Carn. “That is comparable to Pinatubo and one of the largest of the satellite era. However, the involvement of water in the Tonga eruption may have increased the explosivity compared to a purely magmatic eruption like Pinatubo.”

Read more at Earth Observatory by Adam Voiland, with Mike Carlowicz.

Emilie Pray Wins AIPG Poster Competition

Emilie Pray, a geology senior in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES), won first place in the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) Michigan Section Annual Student Poster Contest.

Pray’s poster was titled “The Exhumation History of the Bell Creek Batholith.” Her research has been advised by Chad Deering (GMES).

Gustavo Béjar López and Beth Bartel Present at Volcanology Congress

Gustavo Béjar presenting on Zoom.
Gustavo Béjar López presenting on Zoom.

Michigan Tech doctoral students Gustavo Béjar and Beth Bartel gave invited talks at the I Congreso Internacional Vulcanología y Gestión de Riesgo en Guatemala (1st Volcanology and Risk Management Congress in Guatemala), held Nov. 4-5. Both Bejar and Bartel are studying volcanic hazards. Both are co-advised by Research Assistant Professor Rudiger Escobar Wolf and Professor Greg Waite.

The virtual meeting was hosted by the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala City.

Béjar’s presentation was titled “Generación de un catálogo de lahares para el Volcán de Fuego” (Generation of a catalog of lahars for Fuego Volcano). An international student from Ecuador, Béjar came to Michigan Tech in 2020 via Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He also hold a BS from Yacay Tech University in Ecuador.

Bartel spoke on “Comunicación de Peligros” (Hazard Communication). She came to Michigan Tech from UNAVCO in Boulder, Colorado, where she worked for 17 years, first as a field engineer and most recently as a science communication and outreach specialist. Bartel has an MA in Journalism and Mass Communications from University of Colorado at Boulder, an MS in Geophysics from Indiana University Bloomington, and a BA in Geology from Whitman College.

Beth Bartel presenting on Zoom.
Beth Bartel presenting on Zoom.

NASA Awards Funding to Simon Carn

Simon Carn is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $325,000 research and development grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The project is entitled, “Tracking Volcanic Gases from Magma Reservoir to the Atmosphere: Identifying Precursors, and Optimizing Models and Satellite Observations for Future Major Eruptions.”

This is a potential three-year project.