Catherine Mottram, Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems, The Open University
The collision of India and Asia, which began around 50 Ma, resulted in the formation of some of the largest and most dramatic mountains in the world: the Himalayas. Geologists have long been drawn to the soaring heights of these mountains, in order to understand the processes of continental collision and mountain building. There are several structures in the Himalayas which have been fundamental in facilitating the deformation caused by the collision of the two continents. The Main Central Thrust (MCT) is one of these key tectonic structures which spans over 2500 km along the length of these majestic mountains.
This talk focuses on the Sikkim region of NE India, where the location and nature of movement on the MCT has long been in dispute. A new combined approach uses traditional field techniques and isotope geochemistry to present new information on the location of the MCT in Sikkim. Whereas in the past, locating the MCT has been somewhat of a game of ‘Where’s Wally’, this new approach has redefined the MCT in Sikkim. This has allowed for accurate estimates of rates of movement on this structure to be calculated. This study presents some of the first quantitative results of the rates of deformation on the MCT and provides significant incite into the mountain building processes and helps to unravel some of the mysteries of the eastern Himalaya.
Catherine gained a BSc hons. Degree in Geosciences from the University of St Andrews in 2010, during which time she developed a love of metamorphic geology and spent 6 weeks mapping metamorphic rocks in a bog in Connemara, Ireland which confirmed that she was ‘enthusiastic’ enough about geology to do a PhD. She started her PhD at the Open University in September 2010 and is a NERC funded PhD student, supervised by Prof. Nigel Harris (OU) and Prof. Randy Parrish (BGS) amongst others.
Her research uses a variety of geological techniques, including metamorphic petrology, structural geology, geochronology and isotope geochemistry to investigate mountain building processes. Her PhD focuses on Sikkim, a region of NE India in order to investigate processes of crustal extrusion in the eastern Himalaya.
She has braved monsoonal India, leeches, yaks, many curries and Himalayan roads to bring back over 200Kg rocks which she is currently analysing in the lab.
Professor Eric Wolff FRS, Science Leader (Chemistry and Past Climate) at British Antarctic Survey and
Honorary Visiting Professor in School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton
The polar ice sheets hold one of Earth’s great sedimentary records. By drilling ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, we can obtain ice that fell as snow, extending back as far as 800,000 years in Antarctica and over 120,000 years in Greenland. Ice cores contain information about climate and numerous other environmental parameters; crucially the air bubbles trapped in the ice give access to the past composition of the atmosphere, including the greenhouse gas concentrations. In this talk. Prof. Wolff will first discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ice cores, and then demonstrate how ice cores are collected. He will then present a few examples of the knowledge we have gained from ice cores - about greenhouse gases, about glacial/interglacial cycles, and about rapid climate changes most likely induced by changes in ocean heat transport. Finally he will discuss prospects for obtaining even older ice in the future.
Roy Hartley, Consultant Petroleum Engineer, Bath Geological Society
Shale gas and fracking have appeared regularly in the news in the UK in the last two years. Two extreme views are portrayed - one that development of the UK's shale gas will make the country self sufficient with all the economic benefits that implies - the other is that fracking will pollute our water sources, increase greenhouse gas emissions and have other detrimental effects. This view was first highlighted in the film Gaslands premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Then in 2011 fracking hit the headlines in the UK when the Cuadrilla company's operations near Blackpool were judged to have caused two very small earthquakes (magnitudes 2.3 and 1.5).
Roy Hartley graduated as a petroleum engineer from Imperial College in 1969. He witnessed his first frac job in the same year. He has worked in c. 30 countries and been involved in fracking in the majority of them. From 1981 to 1984 he was Head of Shell's Stimulation Research Group. In this talk he aims to present an unbiased view of the development of shale gas and explain what happens in drilling and fracking and what its environmental impact might be.
Seeing beneath the waves - mapping the ocean floor
Dr. Philippe Blondel, Deputy Director, Centre for Space, Atmospheric & Oceanic Science
Department of Physics, University of Bath
Oceans make up most of the Earth and can only be mapped using sound. The last decades have seen tremendous improvements in both our knowledge of the “Blue Planet” and in our capabilities to explore it. Based on the speaker’s own research, this talk will present the latest sensors and their main discoveries around the world, in particular at
mid-ocean ridges, tsunami-generating areas offshore Spain and Portugal and fragile marine habitats such as deep-sea coral reefs and Arctic fjords.
Megaflood events involving sudden discharges of exceptionally large volumes of water are rare, but can significantly affect landscape evolution, continental-scale drainage networks and climatic patterns. In this talk, Dr. Collier will present a new regional bathymetric map of part of the English Channel derived from high-resolution sonar data, which shows the morphology of the seabed in unprecedented detail. These data image a large bedrock-floored valley that contains a distinct assemblage of landforms, including streamlined islands and longitudinal erosional grooves, which are indicative of large-scale subaerial erosion by high-magnitude water discharges. The data support a megaflood model, in which breaching of a rock dam at the Dover Strait instigated catastrophic drainage of a large pro-glacial lake in the southern North Sea basin. It is suggested that this event permanently isolated Britain from mainland Europe and prompted a large-scale reorganization of river drainage patterns across northwest Europe. In turn these consequences significantly influenced the patterns of early human colonisation of Britain.
Dr. Geraint Owen, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography and Geology, Swansea University.
The Gower peninsula, west of Swansea, was deservedly designated Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. Its magnificent landscape ranges from the suburbs of Swansea in the east, through cliff-lined sandy bays along the south coast, to the vast sweep of sands and tidal island of Worms Head at Rhossili in the west, and the salt marshes and mud flats of the Loughor estuary in the north. Inland, an agricultural patchwork of fields is interrupted by open common land and hilly moorland. Most of this scenic splendour can be explained by the underlying geology, a tightly folded succession of Old Red Sandstone and Carboniferous rocks. The final details of the landscape were shaped by glaciations in the Quaternary, in the last of which, about 20,000 years ago, the ice reached a southern limit across the peninsula, displacing people who had set up home here. This talk will outline the geological evolution of Gower, relating the landscape to the underlying geology and interpreting the succession of geological events in terms of changing environmental conditions through 400 million years of the Earth’s history.
The talk will be in advance of a West Country Geoogy field meeting to Gower on 19th October.
Professor Rory Mortimore, until recently, professor of Engineering Geology and Head of the Civil Engineering Division, Earth Systems and Environmental Hazards Research Group, University of Brighton
Discovery of a unique and previously unknown geology during investigations for the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel, including phosphatic chalks, raised many issues about the origins of such deposits and implications for tunnel construction. The talk will show how the geology was investigated and the potential impact this geology had for the local environment as well as tunnel construction.
Volcanic risk communication: a heart-breaking subject - - still with almost no light at the end of the tunnel
Professor Robert Thompson, Emeritus professor of Geology, Durham University
Trying to persuade residents to escape from their local erupting volcano before it kills them is a frustrating business. In this talk, Prof. Thompson will begin by summarising this depressing tale since Pompeii in 79 AD, the first well-documented example of mass-suicide by otherwise rational people. The latest example happened in October/November 2010 and was the first to “benefit” both from the age of digital images and the attention of the world’s press. Attempting to explain this phenomenon takes us to the strange “Frog in the saucepan” paradox and the events of June 1997 on Montserrat, Lesser Antilles, give us a detailed example of this.
The situation that arose on the island during 2007 shows another potentially lethal problem; local residents become such experienced amateur volcanologists that they can grow to despise and ruthlessly attack any professional who has views that inconvenience them.
The current expert predictions expect pyroclastic flows and their deadly accompanying surges to reach routinely to within about 500 meters of occupied houses during the next few years. Therefore, it seems pointless to continue to maintain a total no-go zone around such deposits after they arrive and much better to begin to teach local school children how to avoid danger of severe burns when they inevitably wander down to take a peek at the red-hot deposits.
Finally, the impossibility of detailed fully-effective direct communications between international scientists and the local population are explored by dissecting the ethnicity and religious belief systems of the 5000 or so Montserrat residents. Part of this dissection explores the question of “jumbies”. If you know exactly what jumbies are all about, and how they influence daily life throughout the Caribbean, then you will know what the talk is about. If not, come along and discover!
James Cresswell has spent the last six years working as an expedition guide in the Polar Regions. This visual presentation, full of photos and video clips, gives an overview of the different forms and changing nature of 'ice' in these regions. The presentation discusses the great ice sheets, the floating ice shelves, as well as icebergs and sea ice. With the recent collapse of several Antarctic Ice Shelves, negative mass balance recorded for both the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets, and 2012 being the year with the minimum ever recorded extent of Arctic Sea Ice; it is clear that polar ice is currently undergoing dramatic change.