Sands of time: walking the Grand Canyon

The Earth is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. A long time ago, the local council put in new sewage pipes in the town where I grew up. The smell was overwhelming. Normally, a smell of coffee would permeate the town whenever the wind went northwest: the main…

Jokulhlaup in the English Channel

Christmas is a time of hope. The days may be dark and dismal but the corner has finally been turned. The sun is beginning its journey back to the north, and from here on the days will get lighter and longer. The new year has started. In Christianity, it is the birth of a baby…

Saving the Earth with asteroids

The dinosaurs would disagree. After owning the Earth, they were now in a bit of a bother. A major re-arrangement of the Earth had taken place. Pangea had split; Gondwana was broken up. The Indian ocean had formed but not in a clean way: a number of parallel rifts were running through Africa, and the…

An Iceland Enigma – The Thórsmörk Ignimbrite

Today we welcome a guest post by volcanologist Dave McGarvie. Dave is a senior lecturer at the Open University and studies volcanoes in Iceland and Chile. He can be found on Twitter under the username @subglacial. One of the wonderful aspects of working as a volcanologist is Iceland is that fascinating new puzzles and their…

The Drakensberg and the storm that ended Gondwana

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo Setshaba sa, South Afrika Imagine. Around you is a sea of sand, stretching out far beyond the horizon. Mirages reflect the cloudless sky, and suggest water where only sand rules. But strangely, a mile ahead a river pushes through the mirages, flowing slowly, a blue ribbon amidst…

Volcanoes and CO2 – continued

In the first part of this post, we looked at magical carbon and where to find it. We now continue to look at how much CO2 volcanoes produce, and how it compares to our own emissions. Who wins the battle? The results of the polls are: A small majority believes that volcanoes produce less CO2…

Volcanoes and CO2

The world we live in has a volcanic history. The continents ultimately came from volcanoes, often volcanic arcs, in some cases several billions of years ago, in other cases more recently. All ocean floor is volcanic, made in mid-oceanic rifts within the past few hundred million years. And the volcanic contributions do not stop there.…

Rockall: The lost continent of Middle Earth

Mid-oceanic rifts should be in the middle of the ocean they formed. And often they are, but there are exceptions. The Reykjanes Rift, south of Iceland, is one of these. It is well known for its connection to Iceland, and events there are often discussed in this blog. Reykjanes has separated Greenland from Scotland, and…

Ice age

The signs are everywhere. In some places, huge stones are found lying on the land, in a place where no rock exists. In other places, deep scratches in the stony surface, all pointing in one direction. U-shaped valleys are found in hills, a shape which rivers don’t do. To the readers of the landscape, it…

Echoes from a silent spring

It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh. (From Rachel Carson: Silent Spring) The history of life on earth…