Wooster Geologists Present at AGU 2013

December 12th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today was a big day for Wooster Geologists Alex Hiatt (’14) and Mary Reinthal (’16). They presented their work on subglacial volcanic ridges, along with Ellie Was (’14, Dickinson College).

Ellie (left), Mary (center, and Alex (right) presented their posters in a physical volcanology session at AGU 2013.

Ellie (left), Mary (center), and Alex (right) presented their posters in a physical volcanology session at AGU 2013.

You may remember these fantastic undergraduate researchers from last summer’s field season. They’ve been hard at work since then, processing the images and samples that we collected. Ellie was lead author on a poster titled, “Along-axis variations in volcanology and geochemistry of a pillow-dominated tindar: Comparison of exposures in Undirhlithar and Vatnsskarth quarries, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland.” She carefully traced individual pillow lavas on Gigapan images and constructed the first ever (we think) pillow-size distribution. Her work can help us understand permeability and fluid flow in pillow-dominated crust.

Alex was lead author on a  poster titled, “Estimated hydrostatic/cryostatic pressures during emplacement of pillow lavas at Undirhlithar quarry, Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest Iceland.” He is conducting a high-resolution FTIR study of volatiles in the quenched glass rims of basaltic pillow lavas. His ultimate goal is to estimate quench pressures and, by extension, ice thickness. Thanks to all of those who visited his poster this morning and offered excellent suggestions for next steps!

The last four days have been packed with science, far too much to cover here. Here are some final highlights from this year’s meeting:

  • SolEx: SolEx is a model that we’ll be able to use to calculate CO2 and H2O solubility in basaltic melts at low pressures. Thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Dixon for pointing us to it!
  • Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility (NENIMF): Since SolEx takes into account melt composition and total volatiles, like S and Cl, we might be interested in using the SIMS at NENIMF to analyze our glasses in the future. Thanks to Dr. Adam Soule for sending us to the NENIMF booth in the exhibit hall.
  • 3-D Photogrammetry: Some researchers have used 3-D photogrammetry of oblique photos taken from aircraft to trace inaccessible lava flows near the tops of mountains in eastern Iceland. Our solution in the quarries has been to combine Gigapan with high-precision GPS and laser range finder. Perhaps the 3-D photogrammetry approach could be useful.

Volcanoes! Volcanoes! Volcanoes!

July 20th, 2013

KAGOSHIMA, JAPAN – The 2013 Scientific Assembly of IAVCEI, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, has officially started in Kagoshima, Japan.

IAVCEI leaders and local welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today's opening ceremony.

IAVCEI leaders and local elected officials welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today’s opening ceremony.

The conference is a volcanologist’s dream, with sessions focused on every aspect of volcanology and a mid-conference field trip to Kagoshima’s own volcano, Sakurajima (currently at alert level 3). Day #1 didn’t disappoint. I’ve already co-chaired a session on Lava Flows with a fantastic group of international scientists and gave a talk on the dynamics of pillow-dominated subglacial eruptions recorded in Undirhlithar quarry on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. You may remember that Lindsey Bowman (’12) and Becky Alcorn (’11) completed I.S. theses in Undirhlithar. Here are some highlights from our presentation:

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Undirhlithar quarry is a unique exposure that  provides insights into the internal architecture of a glaciovolcanic pillow ridge.

We've identified and mapped  pillow lavas, intrusions, and dikes.

Most of the quarry is made of pillow lavas, which are emplaced during effusive subaqueous eruption. We’ve also identified intrusions and dikes that feed the overlying pillow lava flows.

We've also identified tuff and tuff-breccia in the quarry.

There are also fragmental units in the quarry. The tuff, or fine ashy layers, probably represent periods of quiescence between eruptive events. The tuff-breccia, which has larger clasts, are formed during explosive activity and as a result of gravitational collapse along steep slopes.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we've generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we’ve generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced that involves a complex sequence of multiple eruptive events.

The model involves a complex sequence of eruptive events under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions.

The sequence of events occurred under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions, which suggests that even small glaciovolcanic ridges can be constructed in a complicated manner.

Scientific Outreach in Iceland

June 12th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland is nearly ready to return to the states, but not before we share what we’ve learned with the Icelandic community. Our home-away-from-home, the Hraunbyrgi guesthouse, is also home for the Hafnarfjörður scouts. To celebrate the end of their season, the scouts are having a large, nationwide camp-out at a site just south of the pillow quarries. So, for their final meeting, the scouts met with Team Iceland to learn about our research.

Dr. Ben Edwards shows the local scouts a sample of a pillow basalt.

Dr. Ben Edwards shows the local scouts a sample of pillow basalt.

The scouts learned that they’ll be camping along a ridge made of pillow basalts, which formed when lava erupted under a glacier. They also heard about the kinds of information that we can learn from the pillow basalts, like how the upper portion of the ocean floor is formed and how thick the ice was that once covered the Reykjanes Peninsula.  The scouts returned the favor and taught Team Iceland a few new Icelandic words. What a fantastic way to end a successful field season!

A Journey Inside the Volcano

May 31st, 2013

ICELAND – You may remember that Team Iceland is trying to determine the origin of interesting columnar-jointed features exposed in the interior of a subglacial pillow ridge. We have several hypotheses, one of which is that they could be related to the internal magma plumbing system. There’s no better way to know what’s inside of a volcano than by actually going there. Fortunately, we’re able to explore the interior of nearby Thrihnukagigur Volcano through the Inside the Volcano Tour. If you have the chance, you should check out their amazing image and video galleries.

Thrihnukagigur has three volcanic peaks, one of which is a cinder cone with a crater that opens up into a 400 ft deep volcanic chamber. Our goal was to explore the chamber for units and structures that might be analogous to the features we observed in the quarries. The tour began with a 2 mile hike to the volcano over lava flows that were 4,000 and 10,000 years old.

View of Thrihnukagigur Cone and the Inside the Volcano hut (at the base to the right) from the surrounding lava fields. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

View of Thrihnukagigur Cone from the surrounding lava fields. The Inside the Volcano tour has a warm hut at the base of the cone. (The white structure is difficult to see against the field of snow). Photo Credit: Ellie Was

At the hut, we were fitted with safety equipment for our descent into volcano.

At the hut, we were fitted with safety equipment for our descent into the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

We crossed this bridge to get into the open-air basket that took us into the volcanic chamber. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

We crossed this bridge to get into the open-air basket that took us into the volcanic chamber. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

The view down the open volcanic neck from the basket. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

The view down the open volcanic neck from the basket. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

View from below of the lift descending into the chamber.

View from below of the lift descending into the chamber.

Michael Williams ('16, Wooster), Adam Silverstein ('16, Wooster), and Liz Plascencia ('16, Dickinson) in the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Michael Williams (’16, Wooster), Adam Silverstein (’16, Wooster), and Liz Plascencia (’16, Dickinson) in the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

We saw some features that are analogous to our quarry observations. Here, on the left, we see a contact between the underlying Moberg Formation and the overlying lavas that make up much of the volcanic center. The dark black vertical rocks near the center of the photo are dikes that cut across the lava flows and have heated and altered the surrounding rocks, turning them red.

We saw some features that are analogous to our quarry observations. Here, on the left, we see a contact between the dark underlying Moberg Formation and the colorful overlying lavas that make up much of the volcanic center. The black vertical rocks near the center of the photo are dikes that cut across the lava flows. The dikes have heated and altered the surrounding rocks, turning them red.

This appears to be an irregularly shaped intrusion with an open cavity.

This appears to be an irregularly shaped intrusion with an open cavity that might have transported magma to different parts of the volcano during the eruption. Notice the person in the center bottom for scale.

I have failed to mention that we battled driving sleet and 45 mph winds to hike to and from the volcano. Here's part of our group linking arms to stay on their feet as they hike back from the volcano. Our guides were superb and made sure everyone was safe during each part of our trip.

Did I mention that we battled driving sleet and 45 mph winds to hike to and from the volcano? Here’s part of our group linking arms to stay on their feet as they hike back from the volcano. Our guides were superb and made sure everyone was safe during each part of our trip. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Ellie Was ('14, Dickinson), Alex Hiatt ('14, Wooster), and Aleks Perpalaj ('14, Dickinson) after their return hike. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Ellie Was (’14, Dickinson), Alex Hiatt (’14, Wooster), and Aleks Perpalaj (’14, Dickinson) after their return hike. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Team Iceland warms up with hot coffee and homemade Icelandic stew.

Team Iceland warms up with hot coffee and homemade Icelandic stew. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

The t-shirt that says it all. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

The t-shirt that says it all. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

It was an incredible Icelandic experience! Much thanks to the Inside the Volcano Team for their excellent knowledge, guidance, and hospitality!

Exploring Reykjavik, Iceland

May 30th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland had a chance to explore Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik today. Here are the photo highlights of their day:

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Team Iceland poses with Leifur Eiriksson in front of Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s landmark church that is modeled after columnar jointed basalt. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

Interior of Hallgrinskirkja. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

Interior of Hallgrinskirkja. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

Team Iceland pauses to listen to the organ in Hallgrimskirkja. Photo Credit: Michael Williams

Team Iceland pauses to listen to the organ in Hallgrimskirkja. Photo Credit: Michael Williams

The view looking east across Kopavogur. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

The view looking east across Kopavogur. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

 

They also visited the Natural History Museum in Kopavogur. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

A visit to the Natural History Museum in Kopavogur. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

Wow! Look at the size of that tree! Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Wow! Look at the size of that tree! Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Team Iceland also documented the rock displays, of course. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Of course, they also found natural history at the Volcano Museum. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

They found a nice cafe for lunch. Photo Credit: Michael Williams

Lunch in a nice cafe. Photo Credit: Michael Williams

A little shopping in the tourist district. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

A little shopping in the tourist district. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

A view of Reykjavik across City Pond. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

A view of Reykjavik across City Pond. Photo Credit: Alex Hiatt

An encounter with the local wildlife. Photo credit: Alex Hiatt

An encounter with the local wildlife. Photo credit: Alex Hiatt

Fantastic Weather Makes Productive Field Days

May 28th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland made the most of the beautiful weather over the last two days. After spending all day in the field yesterday, we went back after dinner;  the lighting was just right to take GigaPan images of the field site.

Aleks ('14, Dickinson) and Ben (Dickinson) set up the GigaPan to take a panoramic image of the quarry.

Aleks (’14, Dickinson) and Ben (Dickinson) set up the GigaPan to take a panoramic image of the quarry.

This is a simple panorama made of three images stitched together. The GigaPan system allows us to merge over 100 images to produce a high-resolution image.

This is a simple panorama made of three images stitched together. The GigaPan system allows us to merge over 100 images to produce a high-resolution image.

Our plan is to couple the high-resolution GigaPan images with elevation information from the laser range finger. Here, Michael ('16, Wooster) and Ellie ('14, Dickinson) are recording the elevations of contacts along the quarry walls.

Our plan is to couple the high-resolution GigaPan images with elevation information from the laser range finder. Here, Michael (’16, Wooster) and Ellie (’14, Dickinson) are recording the elevations of contacts along the quarry walls.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are mapping and sampling the different units. Adam ('16, Wooster) and Aleks ('14, Dickinson) are ready to sample a glassy pillow lava.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are mapping and sampling the different units. Adam (’16, Wooster) and Aleks (’14, Dickinson) are ready to sample a glassy pillow lava.

Alex ('14, Wooster) describes a volcanic breccia unit.

Alex (’14, Wooster) describes a volcanic breccia unit. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

Liz ('16, Dickinson) carefully describes the mineralogy and vesicularity of a sample.

Liz (’16, Dickinson) carefully observes the mineralogy and vesicularity of a sample. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

Ben and I are having a blast working in the quarry (no pun intended).

Ben and I are having a blast working in the quarry (no pun intended). We’ve seen a number of interesting features that have our minds racing. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

We're currently puzzled over these large, light gray, columnar jointed features.

We’re currently puzzled by these large, light gray, columnar jointed features.

 

The puzzling features are associated with these steeply dipping pillow lavas, which might lead to some insights into their origin.

The puzzling features are associated with these steeply dipping pillow lavas, which might lead to some insights into the origin of the features and enhance our understanding of the formation of subglacial pillow ridges.

Mission Possible: Mapping the Quarry Walls

May 27th, 2013

ICELAND – We spent Sunday morning discussing all of the features that we’ve seen during our reconnaissance investigations. After comparing notes, we defined several lithofacies, or mappable units with specific lithologic features. Our coherent lithofacies include pillow lavas, dikes, and intrusions while our fragmental lithofacies are units like volcanic breccia and lapilli tuff. By the end of the morning, Team Iceland was ready for their first group assignment: map a section of the quarry wall.

The students worked diligently to record comprehensive field notes.

The students worked diligently to record comprehensive field notes.

Image of a pillow lava that shows some of the features the students were looking for: radial columnar joints, glassy rind, interbedded hyaloclastite.

Image of a pillow lava that shows some of the features the students were looking for: radial columnar joints, glassy rind, and interbedded hyaloclastite.

The students celebrated the completion of their mission with lunch by large mining equipment.

The students celebrated the completion of their mission with lunch by large mining equipment.

 

 

Theory to Practice (Classroom in the Quarry)

May 26th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland is investigating the formation of subglacial pillow lavas on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland.

We are working on a an elongated pillow ridge, which erupted along a fissure system when the peninsula was glaciated.

Google Earth image showing the elongated pillow ridge that we are working on. The pillow ridge erupted along a fissure system when the peninsula was glaciated. 

Quarries along the ridge expose the internal structure of the subglacial deposits, revealing complex sequences of pillow lavas, intrusions, and fragmental units.

One of the active quarries graciously allowed us to use their break room for a morning overview.

Ben Edwards discusses the  geological goals of the project.

Ben Edwards discusses the geological goals of the project. Photo Credit: Jim Ciarrocca

We spent most of the rest of the day working in the inactive part of the quarry.

Team Iceland examines the base of a wall of pillow lavas and discusses the formation of hyaloclastite, the glassy fragmental material that spalls off the pillow rims.

Team Iceland examines the base of a wall of pillow lavas and discusses the formation of hyaloclastite, the glassy fragmental material that spalls off the pillow rims.

As we explored the walls, we found a lava cave. Alex Hiatt ('14) snapped a photo of the hibernating lava bears for Dr. Wilson.

As we explored the walls, we found a lava cave. Alex Hiatt (’14) snapped a photo of the hibernating lava bears for Dr. Wilson.

Aleks ('14, Dickinson) uses a GPS and a laser range finder to "shoot" the quarry walls.

Aleks (’14, Dickinson) uses a GPS and a laser range finder to “shoot” the quarry walls.

Adam Silverstein ('16) points out features on the wall for Aleks to shoot.

Adam Silverstein (’16) points out features on the wall for Aleks to shoot.

The day ended with some reconnaissance work in the active parts of the quarry after the workers had left.

Team Iceland poses with a a fantastic columnar jointed basalt they found on their reconnaissance investigation.

Team Iceland poses with a a fantastic columnar jointed basalt they found on their reconnaissance investigation.

 

 

 

Pizza on the Pillows

May 25th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland has arrived! We have been joined by our collaborators from Dickinson College and now number 9 strong. The Dickinson crew arrived early on Friday morning, so we spent much of the day recovering from our overseas travel and preparing for fieldwork. In addition to obtaining vehicles and food, we met our Icelandic collaborator, Steinunn Hauksdóttir, at the Iceland Geosurvey (ISOR) to discuss logistics. (Steinunn also showed us their latest geological map of the northern volcanic zone. We promptly offered to map the rest of Iceland for them in exchange for bread and Skyr).

When the group awoke from their jet-lagged slumber, they were hungry for food and geology. So, we thought we’d try a twist on the introduction to the field area: Pizza on the Pillows. In a spur of the moment decision, we thought it might be fun to have an informal dinner at the quarries where we’ll be studying the formation of subglacial pillow lavas. We picked up pizzas and headed to the field.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the field, the weather was perfectly Icelandic. Although you can't see it, the wind and rain would have made our pizzas soggy.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the field site, the weather was perfectly Icelandic. Although you can’t see it, the wind and rain would have made our pizzas soggy. We got the cliff notes version of the overview instead.

We are creative bunch, though, and were still able to have a different kind of Pizza on the Pillows back at the hostel.

Team Iceland and their "Pizza on the Pillows" in the dry hostel dining room. Pictured from left to right: Michael ('16, Wooster); Aleks ('14, Dickinson); Ellie ('14, Dickinson); Liz ('16, Dickinson); Dr. Ben Edwards; Alex ('14, Wooster); Adam ('16, Wooster); Jim Ciarrocca (GIS, Dickinson).

Team Iceland and their “Pizza on the Pillows” in the dry hostel dining room. Pictured from left to right: Michael (’16, Wooster); Aleks (’14, Dickinson); Ellie (’14, Dickinson); Liz (’16, Dickinson); Dr. Ben Edwards; Alex (’14, Wooster); Adam (’16, Wooster); Jim Ciarrocca (GIS, Dickinson).

On Our Way to Iceland

May 23rd, 2013

BOSTON, MA – A bleary-eyed Iceland group left Wooster at 4 am this morning to begin the journey to the land of fire and ice. We’ve arrived in Boston and are comfortably checked-in. We are patiently awaiting our flight to Keflavik airport, arguably the most geological airport in the world.

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Proof that we really are leaving for Iceland in two hours! From left to right are Adam Silverstein (’16), Michael Williams (’16), and Alex Hiatt (’13). The gate agent assures us that we’ll see lots of rocks in Iceland. We sure hope so! Follow our adventures on the blog for the next two weeks.

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