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Imaggeo on Mondays: Cordillera del Paine

9 Jul

Cordillera del Paine by Martin Mergili, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Images such as the one above inspire scientists and nature lovers alike. This photograph, showing a Chilean landscape with elements representative of various Earth-science disciplines, is simply stunning. In a beautiful mix of shapes and colours, a quiet lake with floating icebergs appears tucked in between a roughed mountain in the background and a colourful double rainbow in the foreground.

The photographer, Martin Mergili of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, captured this inspiring scenery during a holiday trip a few years ago. The photo shows the eastern edge of the southern part of Cordillera del Paine, a “small but spectacular” mountain group in the Torres del Paine National Park, which is located in Chilean Patagonia almost 2,000 kilometres south of Santiago de Chile.

“The prominent peaks visible in the left portion of the image are the Cuernos del Paine,” Martin explains. “The rainbow in the foreground is not just decoration, it reflects the ever-changing weather patterns characteristic of that area. Even though it is located in the rainshade of the Cordillera at the edge of the semi-arid Patagonian lowlands, the westerlies bring a lot of moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The icebergs in the lake in the foreground (Lago Grey) originate from the large Glaciar Grey calving into the lake.”

More stunning images of this and other landscapes are available from Martin’s website.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Kerlingarfjöll

2 Jul

Kerlingarfjöll by János Kovács, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Iceland, with its stunning volcanic landscapes, is one of the world’s most geologically rich countries. Kerlingarfjöll, featured in this week’s image, is a prime example of that. This Icelandic mountain range, covering an area of 150 square kilometres, formed during a volcanic eruption in the Late Pleistocene – some 100 thousand years ago.

“Kerlingarfjöll is very different to the environment around, both in shape and colour. The mountains are mostly made out of rhyolite and both dark and bright tuff, and there is also a lot of volcanic glass,”  it is explained in the  Kerlingarfjöll official website. “When Kerlingarfjoll was being created, there was a glacier over the mid highlands, and in certain places it seems that pillars of tuff reached out of the melting glacier ice. That is why there are tuff pillars with a lava top.”

The mountains are located in central Iceland, in an area of stunning natural beauty. “I had the chance to visit this beautiful country several times in the last ten years,” the photographer János Kovács, a geologist based at the University of Pécs in Hungary, says. “If anyone wants to see the real Iceland, they should rent a big 4×4 and drive through the country.”

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Sequoias in full moon

25 Jun

Sequoias in full moon by Michael Prather, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

The Sequoia National Park in Sierra Nevada, California, is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the United States. The park, spanning over 1,600 square kilometres, is home to high mountains, deep canyons, and long and pristine caves. But its most distinct feature are giant sequoias, the world’s largest trees.

Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) grow to an average height of 50 to 85 metres and have typical diametres of six to nine metres. The Sequoia National Park is home to General Sherman, the world’s largest (in volume) living tree, calculated to have a volume close to 1,500 cubic metres.

The giant trees frame a beautiful starry sky in this photo by Michael Prather. He took this picture in February 2010 during a family holiday to the Wuksachi area of the Sequoia National Park. He explains that the picture was taken the night after a very heavy snow storm. “We spent the weekend in Wuksachi, getting hit with about 24″ [~60cm] of snow overnight. The snow on the trees was heavy and lit up like daylight by the moon.  I was surprised to be able to see Orion so clearly with the near-full moon, but the sky was very clear.”

The lower half of the constellation of Orion is visible at the top centre of the photograph. The three stars that make up the belt of The Hunter appear clearly, and a more careful viewing also reveals the fuzzy Orion nebula – the middle of the three ‘stars’ south of the belt.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Jointed Colorado Rockies

18 Jun

Jointed Colorado Rockies by Will Gosnold, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license

The Rocky Mountains, or Rockies, are a North American mountain system stretching around 5,000 km from northern British Columbia, Canada, to New Mexico in the southwestern United States. They are made up of a discontinuous series of mountain ranges with distinct geological origins, the last of which was formed during the Laramide orogeny (mountain formation event) 80–55 million years ago.

With a population of 568,158 (2011 estimate), Wyoming has the lowest population and second lowest population density of any US state, yet it has the 10th largest area. Its environment is defined by its geological history, lying at the intersection of the Rockies to the west and, to the east, the Great Plains, a broad expanse of flat land running north to south across North America.

The sheer size and distance covered by the Rockies, even through just the one state of Wyoming, is hard to imagine by European standards. At 253,348 sq km, Wyoming itself has a greater area, for example, than the UK, Romania, Belarus, Greece, or Bulgaria, just to name a few. Perhaps the best way to understand the scale of the Rockies is by experiencing them from above, an experience captured here by Will Gosnold through an aircraft window. Gosnold, a professor within the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of North Dakota, describes this photo opportunity, “I took the photo from the window of a Delta Airlines plane, over what is likely Wyoming, during a flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis while returning from the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union on 9 December 2011.”

Apart from boasting the Rockies and its vast expanse of publicly owned land, including a section of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming produces a broad array of mineral commodities. Apart from being the largest and second largest producer of coal and natural gas respectively in the US, it also produces coalbed methane, crude oil, uranium, and trona, an evaporite mineral used for the production of washing soda (sodium carbonate). Diamond and uranium mines have also recently operated in the state.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Halo

11 Jun

Halo by Farahnaz Khosrawi, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons License

“Ring around the sun or moon brings rain or snow upon you soon.” Before the development of meteorology, visible atmospheric phenomena, such as halos, were used to forecast the weather. Though meteorological prediction has come a long way since then, these extraordinary halos really do appear in the sky on otherwise ordinary days, a lesson learned by Farahnaz Khosrawi when she saw the sun rise on a cold Swedish morning.

Khosrawi, an Associate Professor at the Department of Meteorology, University of Stockholm, recalls her trip to the office, “A wonderful halo was visible [around the sun] in the early morning of 8 December 2010. It was a very cold winter morning in Stockholm with temperatures around -20 C. The picture was taken in front of the university on my way to work. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this wonderful huge halo. I was so glad that I had my camera with me. I never have seen such an halo before and who knows when I will have the chance to see one again.”

Like rainbows, halos are beautiful optical phenomena. However, unlike rainbows, where sunlight hits atmospheric water droplets, halos are formed when light is reflected and refracted by ice crystals in the thin, wispy cirrus clouds high up in the upper troposphere (5–10 km altitude). Khosrawi explains, “The shape and size of the ice crystals determines the appearance of the halo. The halo produced by the ice crystals appears as an arc or spot in the sky. Many halos occur near the sun but others appear elsewhere and can even appear in the opposite part of the sky.”

Two ‘sundogs’, another atmospheric phenomena that takes the shape of two bright spots of light to the left and right of the sun, are also visible in this stunning picture.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

4 Jun

The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road by Fabien Darrouzet, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Tucked between the rough Southern Ocean and stunning cliff tops, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic routes. The 243-kilometre stretch of road along the country’s south-eastern coastline is surrounded by beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, as well as incredible geological formations. The 12 Apostles, stacks of rocks located in the Port Campbell National Park, are one of the highlights of the route.

Two of these structures are visible in this wild scene captured by Fabien Darrouzet of the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy in Brussels. He took this picture in June 2011 while travelling in Australia before the XXV General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Melbourne.

“Those stacks are composed by miocene limestone rock, and were formed by erosion,” Fabien explains. “The Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone of the coast to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed, leaving rock stacks up to 45 metres high.”

The wild Southern Ocean with its rough waves is still shaping these rock formations. “Due to the strong waves in this area, those stacks are susceptible to more erosion, and can even collapse, as one did in July 2005,” Fabien says. “This means these geoscience elements are in constant evolution, and they show the changes of nature due to nature itself.”

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Melt Stream

28 May

Melt Stream, Greenland by Ian Joughin, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Supraglacial lakes are created when water forms in depressions on top of a glacier, remaining there until it dissipates by seeping through crevasses, or cracks in the ice sheet. Despite their sometimes impressive size, supraglacial lakes may drain in a matter of hours under the right conditions, when the pressure they exert on the ice causes it to crack creating a sometimes spectacular lake draining event.

Draining of supraglacial lakes may have important environmental consequences and may even, as warming temperatures further increase meltwater volumes, affect rates of sea-level rise by accelerating the rate by which ice sheets slide into the ocean.

Dr Ian Joughin, from the University of Washington Polar Science Center, took this breathtaking photo under freezing conditions, earning him the 1st Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition. He explains, “This image was taken as part of a project investigating the rapid drainage of supraglacial lakes in Greenland. Each year, these lakes, which often are a few kilometers across and 10 or meters deep, fill with melt water. If the water can find an open crack, it fills the crack and the greater density of water relative to ice allows it to hydro-fracture through the full thickness (~1 km) of the ice sheet, causing the entire lake to drain rapidly (< 2hours). This picture shows a large melt stream that we encountered as we were out exploring the lake basin, and it is only one of many streams feeding the lake.”

Additional images from this trip can be viewed here.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Icy Landscape

21 May

Icy Landscape by Lucien von Gunten, distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Ice is a hazardous beauty, ephemeral in nature and, under the right conditions, capable of dominating landscapes. Earlier this year, while North America enjoyed an unusually mild winter, central and eastern Europe experienced brutal cold spells. The continent witnessed widespread freezing as cold air swept south from Siberia, claiming hundreds of lives, knocking out power supplies, and disrupting transport services. In Poland and the Ukraine, temperatures dropped as low as -33C and in Italy over 80,000 citizens were left without electricity after power lines were felled by trees.

This year’s icy spell brought Switzerland its coldest weather since 1987, the year it experienced its lowest ever recorded temperature. Lucien von Gunten, Science Officer at PAGES (Past Global Changes), explains the exceptional circumstances behind this captivating shot, taken earlier this year. “In Versoix, near the Lake of Geneva, the combination of low temperatures and strong easterly winds led to an unusual natural spectacle as the lake shores were partly covered with ice. Images of cars and boats under a thick ice shell were shown in the international press. Next to these popular eye-catchers one could also admire smaller scale ice structure, such as those depicted on this photograph, which covers an area of 30×30 cm.” This photo won 3rd Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition.

Exceptional weather events, such as extreme temperatures, drought, or tropical storms and hurricanes, have increased in frequency over the past 50 years, partly as a result of human-induced climate change.

More pictures of Switzerland during this year’s freeze can be seen here.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Burst

14 May

Burst by Melissa S. Bukovsky, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license.

This photo won 2nd Prize at the 2012 General Assembly photo competition and, according to the photographer, Melissa S. Bukovsky, epitomises the idea that an expensive camera is not a necessity for taking great photos. “You just need to know how to use what you have. I travel with a point and shoot that fits in my back pocket,” she explains.

Currently a Project Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Bukovsky snapped this shot on one of her many work related trips. “This picture of a bursting mud bubble in a boiling pool of mud was taken just outside of the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area near Rotorua, New Zealand.  The area is part of New Zealand’s Taupo volcanic zone. I stayed in this area for a few days of holiday before traveling back to the US after working in Melbourne for the summer.  Aside from all of the fantastic geothermal phenomena to see in that area, there are numerous hot springs that are great for relaxing in.”

Mud pools, hot springs of bubbling mud, form in high-temperature geothermal areas where water is in short supply. The little water that is available rises to the surface at a spot where the soil is rich in volcanic ash, clay, and other fine particulates. The viscosity of the mud varies, from fluid during the rainy season to viscous in drier months.

The Wai-O-Tapu geothermal complex has been protected as a scenic reserve since 1931 and it remains a major tourist attraction.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Traveling resource

7 May

Traveling resource by Romain Schläppy, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license

An iceberg is formed when large pieces of ice break from snow-formed glaciers or ice shelves and float through the open oceans carried by wind and currents. They range in size and can be as large as over 75 m high and over 200 m wide, an important threat to unknowing ships.

To that end, last month marked a century since the Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg, killing over 1,500 passengers. Detection systems, put in place after the 1912 incident, show that icebergs are common along shores such as the east coast of Newfoundland.

Yet despite their associated dangers, icebergs can also be incredibly beautiful, exemplified in this picture taken by Romain Schläppy at Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland. He explains the September 2011 encounter, “We were on a boat trip between Qeqertarsuaq (on Disko Island) and Ilulissat (southwestern Greenland). The iceberg had been naturally sharpened since its release from Jakobshavn glacier, which provides about 10% of all icebergs in Greenland and is itself moving at speeds of up to 20 meters per day.”

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.