05-19-18 Melanie Kelman: Vancouver to Whistler, B.C. Geology

About the Talk

The Geology of Southwest British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Region

British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99, connecting Vancouver to Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton) provides a journey through the geology of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, where relief from valley floors to summits is commonly 1500-2000 m. The highway follows the steep fjord wall of Howe Sound past waterfalls, debris flow-prone gullies, rockfall hazards, glacial erosion features, and the Britannia Beach copper mine (operational until 1974), before arriving in Squamish. The town of Squamish sits at the head of Howe Sound and is located near the 700 m cliffs of the granitic monolith, the Stawamus Chief, as well as the dormant volcano, Mount Garibaldi, and a debris fan comprising mainly volcanic material from Mount Garibaldi, including material that was originally deposited supraglacially before being remobilized when the Cordilleran ice sheet disappeared. North of Squamish, the Sea to Sky Highway climbs from a floodplain and winds its way through the Cheakamus River canyon, with views of the mountains and glaciers of the Tantalus Range to the west. The vertical cliffs of the Barrier mark the site of a mid-nineteenth century landslide from an andesite lava flow that ponded against remnants of the Cordilleran ice sheet during the waning stages of the Fraser Glaciation. At Brandywine Falls, the Brandywine River cascades over a stack of basaltic lava flows and drops 70 m into a canyon. A series of lava flows of Cheakamus basalt next to the highway show evidence for eruption beneath or beside ice. In Whistler, the gondolas to the top of the ski slopes allow for broad views of the geology of the Coast Range, including the volcano, Mount Cayley, located 15 km west of Whistler (but not visible from lower elevations). North of Whistler, Nairn Falls, located 1.5 km from the highway, has numerous large potholes and other features eroded by water. The town of Pemberton lies about 60 km southeast of the volcano, Mount Meager, which in 2010 was the source of the largest historic landslide in Canada (about 49 million m3). Although Mount Meager occupies only 2.5% of the area of the Lillooet River watershed, it is the source of 25-75% of all the sediment deposited in the Lillooet River valley during the Holocene. Three prehistoric debris flows from Mount Meager, including one contemporaneous with its 2350 BP eruption, reached as far as currently inhabited areas of Pemberton. This eruption, the only known explosive Holocene eruption in Canada, left an ash layer that today can be traced as far as central Alberta, more than 500 km downwind.

Read about the Sea to Sky GeoTour…

About the Speaker

Melanie Kelman is a volcanologist with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) in Vancouver. She first became interested in geology as a child, when her father, a hobby rock collector, took the family to quarries, gravelly lake shores, and mine dumps around western Canada and the United States. She completed a B.Sc. at the University of Saskatchewan in 1994, an M.Sc. at Oregon State University in 1998 (studying altered seafloor rocks from the Tonga trench in the southwest Pacific), and a Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in 2005 (studying volcano – ice interaction at southwest BC’s Mount Cayley volcanic field). After brief stints working in the industry, drilling for metallurgical coal and then looking for gold in ancient volcanic rocks, Melanie started work with NRCan in October 2007 during the Nazko region volcanic seismic swarm (which did not lead to an eruption). She currently devotes her time to volcanic hazard research, volcano emergency planning, and the preparation of educational materials. If volcanic unrest were to occur again in Canada, she would play a major role in monitoring, hazard assessment, and eruption forecasting.

Melanie Kelman in the news…

Kamloops This Week 2017 Volcanoes in B.C…

CBC 2016 Dormant B.C. Volcano…

03-31-2018 Tom Badger: Landslide Hazards

About the talk

Geology, gravity, and growth: the risky business of landslide hazards in Washington

Landslide hazards abound in Washington State. They impact our shorelines and rivers, forests, infrastructure, homes, and livelihood; and on rare occasions, they result in loss of life. Tens to hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent annually in Washington State to mitigate for these impacts. Some of the better known hazard areas for frequent and/or large-volume landslides are associated with the glacial deposits of the Puget Lowland, the marine sedimentary rocks of the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills, and the basalt-sedimentary interbed sequences of the Yakima Fold Belt.

Proactive response to a particular hazard is driven by the recognition of potential environmental and societal consequences and imminence (predictability) of occurrence. The latter factor can be difficult to characterize, recently exemplified by the Rattlesnake Ridge landslide near Yakima. More often, landslides unexpectedly happen and society responds reactively. Despite the human tragedies associated with these events, notable historical landslide events in Washington, such as the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption, the 1983 Lake Whatcom debris flows, the 1996-7 winter events, and the 2014 SR 530 (Oso) landslide, generated high-value societal benefits. These include the implementation of forest practice rules for timber harvest and road-building, professional licensure of geologists, risk-management programs for public and private infrastructure, streamlining of emergency management procedures, landslide hazard mapping, and scientific advancement.

About the Speaker

Tom Badger is a retired engineering geologist for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). He shared thought provoking images including an example of the Rattlesnake Ridge Landslide south of Yakima and why predictions are challenging.

Tom Badger in the news:
Seattle Times Jan. 2018 Geologist warns Yakima area landslide could be worse than officials expect … “how hard it is to predict the behavior of a massive, unstable pile of rock and dirt,” said Tom Badger

Seattle Times Feb. 2010 about Naches slide


02-24-2018 Jim Aldrich: Geologic Hot Spots

About the Talk

Geologic Hot Spots Under Our National Parks

Jim Aldrich presents an intriguing picture of geologic hot spots through the lens of some U.S. National Parks. Geologic hotspots are the manifestation of thermally expanded, buoyant mantle “plumes” that rise through the lithosphere. On reaching the Earth’s crust they can erupt as relatively quite basalt flows and/or by violent explosive eruptions of rhyolite.

This hour-long presentation will address the basics of the mantle-plume processes. Emphasis will be on the Yellowstone hotspot, which has a long and varied eruption history that began on the seafloor before being overridden by the North American continent. During the Quaternary, the hotspot has fueled three massive caldera eruptions that distributed volcanic ash around the world. Today the hotspot beneath Yellowstone National Park is reflected in the presence of numerous geothermal features.

About the Speaker

Read more about Jim Aldrich…