Cesium–A Critical Mineral


Cesium (“caesium,” outside the US) is not just a ringtone. Nor is it simply the atom used in ultra-precise clocks that make everything from the Internet to GPS possible, thanks to accurate time stamps.



Yes, cesium defines time itself.

Although it can be hazardous in some forms, cesium also is extremely useful in a variety of niche applications ranging from things like catalyzing chemical processes to cleaning sulfur out of crude oil to making fiber optic and other specialty glasses to building cellphone motion sensor devices.

In its manmade radioactive form, Cs137 is used for treating cancer and sterilizing equipment in modern medicine; and as cesium formate, it is rented out as a reusable brine to companies drilling oil and gas wells in high-temperature, high-pressure formations.

The United States depends on imports, mainly from a mine in Canada. And that mine closed in 2015, although its cesium stock is still sufficient to meet US and worldwide demand for the near future.

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Guest Videos: Laguna del Maule Volcanic Complex


First off, here’s a skiing video, without a single mention of volcanoes. But everything they are travelling over, under, around and through is part of the Laguna del Maule volcano complex on the Chile-Argentina border.



Yes, it’s an active volcano. In fact, until last year it seemed the most likely candidate for the world’s next supereruption.

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Guest Video: The Salton Sea


A study at the end of June made headlines about earthquake hazard on the San Andreas Fault. The research looked at the area covered by the Salton Sea:



According to news reports, geologists found:

. . . a nearly 15.5-mile-long, sheared zone with two, nearly parallel master faults and hundreds of smaller, rung-like cross faults. . . The discovery . . . reveals the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault changes fairly gradually into the ladder-like Brawley Seismic zone. The structure trends northwest, extending from the well-known main trace of the San Andreas Fault along the Salton Sea’s northeastern shore, to the newly identified East Shoreline Fault Zone on the San Andreas’ opposite edge.

. . .

Future earthquakes in that zone or near the San Andreas Fault could potentially trigger a cascade of earthquakes leading to the overdue major quake scientists expect along the southern San Andreas fault zone . . .

So, perhaps it’s good that the “Riviera” scheme never worked out.

While seismologists scramble over the area to learn more about earthquake hazards, the USGS is monitoring the local volcano situation–which includes five vents discovered in 2013–through the California Volcano Observatory.

Again, not a good place for a resort!


Featured image: 12019, at Pixabay. Public domain.


Alaska’s Sitkin Volcanoes


You might already have heard of one of the two Alaskan “Sitkin” volcanoes, since headline writers at a few news websites are giving Great Sitkin Volcano the “about-to-explode” treatment.

Indeed, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) recently raised the aviation code on Great Sitkin Volcano to Yellow, since it is having a period of elevated seismicity.

Again.

Great Sitkin has been having swarms of small earthquakes off and on since 2016. There also was a small ash emission in early June.

Magma probably has moved into the volcano. But there is no sure way to predict exactly what Great Sitkin Volcano will do in coming weeks and months, as volcanologists told local journalists late last year.

Instead of going by the doom-and-gloom headlines, let’s get to know these volcanoes a little better.

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Guest Videos: Beryllium–A Strategic Mineral



It’s tempting to call beryllium the “Clark Kent” of the periodic table’s group 2 elements:

bertrandite use

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com, viaWikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Beryllium is usually found in bertrandite or beryl crystals and minerals.

The square-jawed, mild-mannered crystals get the job done but would never be mistaken for one of their glamorous associates, say, emeralds or aquamarines.

As a metal, beryllium is dull gray and usually covered with an oxide (“rust,” which is a lighter shade of gray).

But when the need for its unique properties arises, watch out!





And almost all of this “super” material comes from one source–Materion, the company that produced that last video.

Nothing nefarious or supervillainous is going on; there just happens to be a single huge deposit of beryllium in the world, in Utah, and Materion owns it. Unfortunately, it’s called Spor Mountain, not the Fortress of Solitude.

But it does have an awesome origin story (the wave of supervolcanic eruptions at the end of this video segment):

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Galapagos Volcanoes


Here is a 2013 post I did on the other blog that is relevant now because there are two eruptions going on there at the moment:

La Cumbre:

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and Sierra Negra:

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Ah, the Galapagos! Thinking of Darwin and giant turtles now?

Well, the land itself – a volcanic archipelago – is alive, too.
 

 
Per the accompanying text for that NASA Earth Observatory flyover, Straddling the equator approximately 1000 kilometers to the west of the South American mainland, the Galapagos Islands lie within the heart of the equatorial current system. Rising from the sea floor, the volcanic islands of the Galapagos are set on top of a large submarine platform. The main portion of the Galapagos platform is relatively flat and less than 1000 meters in depth. The steepest slopes are found along the western and southern flanks of the platform with a gradual slope towards the east. The interactions of the Galapagos and the oceanic currents create vastly different environmental regimes which not only isolates one part of the Archipelago from the other but allows penguins to live along the equator on the western part of the Archipelago [because of the cold Humboldt or Peru ocean current, shown in blue…Barb] and tropical corals around the islands to the north. The islands are relatively new in geologic terms with the youngest islands in the west still exhibiting periodic eruptions from their massive volcanic craters.

 

The Galapagos Islands are dramatic from the ground …

 

 

… or from a boat, at night, about a quarter-mile offshore (the military tries to evacuate tortoises and other animals at risk when there is an eruption): Continue reading