Protected: Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education: Wherein We See the Light

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New at Rosetta Stones: The Geology Behind the Rio Olympics

At long last (and before the Games are over, even!), I have got the story about the geology behind (and beneath, and over) the Rio Olympics. Rio posed some interesting challenges to the engineers and architects tasked with making the Olympic Village come to life in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Go check it out!

New at Rosetta Stones: The Geology Behind the Rio Olympics

Instant Peril: Flash Floods (and How to Survive Them)

I’m contacting various emergency management agencies to see if I can get a solid response on the car question, but in light of the fact that so many flash floods are going on in the United States over recent weeks (with more in the forecast), I’m going to go ahead and publish this here. An updated version will make an appearance on Rosetta Stones next week. If you have any safety tips to add, let me know!

 

The eleven European tourists exploring Antelope Canyon on a fine summer day in 1997 probably never considered drowning in a desert slot canyon to be a possibility. They may have known that water carved those sandstone walls into fantastical curves and angles. But it wouldn’t have seemed like an ongoing process. Why would anyone be thinking of water, standing on dry sand, with shafts of sunlight spearing through from the narrow opening above? Despite it being the height of the Arizona monsoon season, it wasn’t raining.

It started with the sandy silt on the canyon floor leaping six inches into the air. Tour guide Pancho Quintana and his group heard a roar so loud it drowned out screams. The solid rock walls shook. They began running, trying to find a place to climb out. And then they were hit by a wall of water that filled the canyon to a depth of eleven feet. Bodies were thrown into the walls. People might find a grip for a few seconds before debris or other bodies hit them and tore them away, tumbling them down the canyon. Pancho was the lucky one: despite the water and rock tearing off his clothes and skin, he managed to get a foot wedged in a crevice. The rest of the people with him, his tour group and another, were swept out of the canyon and into Lake Powell. Some of their bodies have never been found.

How? How could water suddenly appear from nowhere and end almost a dozen lives in a few minutes?

People who grew up in the high deserts of Arizona were well aware of the potential for disaster. We were warned about flash floods from the time we were little. We knew that those dry washes and canyons could end up filled with water without warning. We knew that the sun could be shining and the ground bone dry where we were, while a thunderstorm dumping water a hundred miles away could be sending a sudden flood our way. We knew. That knowledge didn’t always save us.

Image shows a metal staircase set into wavy red sandstone.
After the disaster, metal staircases were placed in Antelope Canyon to help people escape if they’re caught in flash floods. There are also warning systems set up, and no one is allowed in if there are storms in the watershed. Credit: Moondigger (CC-By-SA-2.5)

Floods are the second deadliest weather hazard, and flash floods are the deadliest type of flood worldwide. In the United States, deaths by flash flood are increasing, while deaths by other hazards are decreasing. And they can happen in places you don’t expect. Desert denizens are well aware of the potential, but flash floods can happen in urban and suburban environments where more runoff is generated than the infrastructure can handle. They can happen in mountain valleys and streams, especially if rain falls on snow and causes unusually fast snow melt, or if rain falls on a recently-burned area, or where ice jams have backed up water. They can happen in areas that are perfectly flat, if a lot of water gets dumped with nowhere to go. They can happen downstream of dams that partially or completely fail. They can happen in any environment.

And they’re only going to get more frequent and more intense as global warming continues.

With the recent flash floods happening in Arizona, Utah, and Yemen, it’s time for us to discuss what to do. Flash floods are hard to prepare for and even harder to escape, considering they’re defined by the fact they happen quickly. But there are steps you can take that will minimize your chances of being caught in one, and will help you survive if you are. Continue reading “Instant Peril: Flash Floods (and How to Survive Them)”

Instant Peril: Flash Floods (and How to Survive Them)

(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIa: In Which A Certain Atmosphere is Created

After the absurdities of ACE and the travesty that is Bob Jones University’s idea of the earth sciences, it is almost with relief that I turn back to A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation. Oh, granted, it is also full of creationist crap – but there were some useful, even educational, bits, and I hope to find more.

Alas, my hopes are dealt a blow by the introduction to Unit I: Meteorology and Oceanography. Beneath the facing photo of sailboats, Psalm 115:16 sez God gave humans the earth, and the first sentence of the chapter is, “God created the earth’s atmosphere…”

Let us pause here to observe just how such a statement can send you haring off in the wrong direction. Continue reading “(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIa: In Which A Certain Atmosphere is Created”

(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIa: In Which A Certain Atmosphere is Created

Protected: (Tier 1) Adventures in ACE XXIV: Cloudy With a 100% Chance of Fail

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Protected: (Tier 1) Adventures in ACE XXIV: Cloudy With a 100% Chance of Fail

Is the West Coast Toast? Let’s Talk Cascadia!

I can stare into the mouth of Mount St. Helens without flinching, begging her to erupt. I can hike up river valleys draining Mount Rainier, and just make a mental note to scramble uphill if it sounds like a mudslide’s coming. I’ve tramped around Mount Baker without once worrying about the fact it’s active. Volcanoes don’t scare me a bit. Okay, I lie, they scare me a wee bit, just enough that I have a healthy respect for their power and refuse to buy property in their hazard zones.

Where I go all white-knuckle and stark terror is on Seattle’s few double-decker roads. Whenever I have to take the southbound I-5 express lanes, I’m staring up at the freeway above, and out toward the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast, and begging it to please oh please not choose this particular instant to rip. Whenever I’m on the coast, the first thing I’m looking for is the quickest route to high ground. See, I know that the Cascadia subduction zone is prone to enormous earthquakes, much like the one that devastated an appreciable chunk of Japan in 2011, and I also know that earthquakes don’t give any warning before they hit. One instant, you’re going about life as usual. The next, the ground is shaking, things are falling, and there’s nothing you can do but ride it out. Well, there’s plenty of safety tips you can follow. But I much prefer volcanoes, which generally give more notice. Also, those generally don’t sink the coastline several feet.

Image shows Lockwood, a man with white hair and beard wearing plaid and denim, standing in the hollow center of a low stump, roots radiating around him through the sand and pools of saltwater.
Lockwood stands on the stump of a gigantic spruce tree at Sunset Bay, Oregon. It was killed more than 1,000 years ago when a massive subduction zone quake dropped the coastline and drowned the forest.

Cascadia terrifies me, people. The idea of it reduces me to a quivering mass of gibbering dread if I allow my thoughts to dwell upon it too long. So I’m glad it’s other people’s jobs to dwell. And they’ve got great news for us! The west coast won’t quite be toast. Our emergency planners are all, we’ve got this. Continue reading “Is the West Coast Toast? Let’s Talk Cascadia!”

Is the West Coast Toast? Let’s Talk Cascadia!

(Repost) Adventures in ACE V: Senseless About St. Helens

We have arrived at the section of ACE Science PACE 1086 wherein someone who knows bugger-all about rocks will proceed to explain rock types. There is so much wrong we’ll have to split it into groups, and even then, I’m not sure the posts will be short enough to prevent acute creationist crap poisoning. I do know I just spent the better part of five hours dealing with just the errors in the opening paragraphs.

I recommend padding all hard surfaces within a 12-block radius before we begin.

Mr. Wheeler, the ocean floor driller, is the narrator. It is apparent the instant he opens his mouth that the writer is not competent to write from the POV of a supposed expert, even a creationist one. “Igneous rock,” he pontificates, “is formed by heat.”

Um.

Actually.

Continue reading “(Repost) Adventures in ACE V: Senseless About St. Helens”

(Repost) Adventures in ACE V: Senseless About St. Helens

Protected: (Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXII: Wherein We Experience Cosmic Fail

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Protected: (Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXII: Wherein We Experience Cosmic Fail

(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-2: In Which We Reclaim Earth Science for God’s Glory

Remember how awful the first half of this ES4 introductory chapter was? It gets worse. Find something to clench while screaming, “Dana, you did this to me!”

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But this is what kids in Christianist schools and homeschools are getting taught.

We’ve reached 1B, “A Christian Approach to Earth Science,” and I believe it is a measure of the trauma caused by the previous section that I am hopeful that a section with a title such as this will contain some actual science, even if by accident. But the beginning is not encouraging, as it states it’s not what we look at, but how we look at it, that’s important. Ken Ham said it best when he said

Image shows Ken Ham holding a Bible and looking towards the right. Caption says, "We're putting on biblical glasses!"

Continue reading “(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-2: In Which We Reclaim Earth Science for God’s Glory”

(Repost) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-2: In Which We Reclaim Earth Science for God’s Glory

Protected: (Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXI: Wherein Mutants are Villified

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