Tuesday, 24 May 2011

New Volcano Pictures!

As you have probably guessed, I do love a good volcano photo, and before I start blogging about the purely academic and revision based, here is a brief Photo essay of pinched images of the current Grimsvotn Eruption.

A very dramatic skyline, volcanic eruptions produce sulphur and ash which refract the sunlight creating some truly spectacular sunsets. To place the eruption in a wider atmospheric context, here is a satellite image of the UK and Iceland, as you will all know, this eruption is likely to be nowhere near as disruptive as the last one from E15, as the current weather system is a depression, it should move off to the North East, which will blow ash away from us.

Sometimes, the eruptions produce these rather lovely cloud formations:

In terms of political Impacts, Obama flew to London a day early to avoid the potential ash chaos:

The Ash is also less likely to cause disruption die to the new Met Office/Aviation rulings on ash in jet engines, which is now 20 times the original level, and a limit of 4000 micrograms per second. 

And a good picture of an Icelandic Dirty Thunderstorm:

Pretty cool, or actually scorching hot, but a very special sight! A lot of you have asked me today why it is that the last year has seen so many Icelandic eruptions, the answer is not too simple, the last 20 years have been unusually quiet, and with the added complication of the volcano/Ice melt feedback cycle (Ice sheets decay faster, less pressure on Magma chambers, therefore the magma chamber has "space" fills with magma, especially in the spring, and is likely to lead to more high latitude eruptions, which for those of you following this, may kick us back into a cold period due to reflection of UV in the upper atmosphere. Perfect negative feedback)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Grimsvotn eruption

This month has seen the start of a new volcanic eruption in Iceland. It is worth noting it is unlikely to cause the level of disruption seen last year with the E15 eruption, this is Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano in Historical times. It erupted a little bit last year, and does so every few years, and instead of Ash being the main concern, this one tends to produce Jokulhaulps of some magnitude.

Words cannot express how much I would like to be in that plane...

Some background to begin, this is part of what is known as the Vatnajokul Ice Cap, this the largest Ice cap in Iceland, also in Europe, and is home to several volcanoes, Grimsvotn is one of these, and is the main volcano from which the infamous Laki eruption of 1783 started (Laki is a fissure that comes from the same fracture zone and geothermal field).

Grimsvotn’s last eruption was November 2010, but its most famous was the 1996 eruption, forming a cauldron in the ice sheet, attracting world media attention and then quite stubbornly, not releasing the massive Jokulhaulps until after most of the journalists had left the Island. In fact it took 6 weeks for the sub glacial melt to make it to the Sandur, the vast volcanic desert plains that make up much of Iceland’s south coast, and have been formed by successive glacial bursts.
The Grimsvotn Cauldron, pictured in 2004, the vent beneath the Ice has erupted and the cauldron clearly visible

Vatnajokul is an unusual ice cap, it houses a large volcanic lake underneath the ice, and this is the main threat, the lake is dammed in to a certain level, but can be easily overtopped when an eruption melts more if the basal ice. This leads to flooding, but as it is a well-known and practised process, rarely cause much disruption to the Icelandic’s, though disruption to the rest of the world is left to p[lay out this week (Again, unlikely, the alarmists are making a story here, but last year was a fluke of an ash laden eruption and unusual prevailing winds). These glacial lake outbursts occur after the start of the eruption, but can take weeks, Iceland is well equipped for this and used to it, and their roads and public services are restored very quickly afterwards.

Sub glacial eruptions are well known to be ashy, even though the nature of most of Iceland’s volcanoes is Basaltic as the contact between hot magma and ice produces instantaneous fracturing of the magma, and steam, this was the main issue with E15, in that steam rising with heavy ash content causes problems for Jet Engines. This time, Easy jet have latched onto a positive of the potentially looming ash cloud, but testing their new Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector, which they were going to test in the Pacific, but now have a testing ground significantly closer to home. Do remember that each natural disaster is an opportunity for us to learn more and fine tune our management, prediction and mitigation strategies.

This particular eruption, is reportedly already subsiding, there is a very high incidence of dirty thunderstorms, and as soon as any are published, which will be soon, I will add them to the blog, in the meantime, have a look at some of these lovely other photos of the plume, and some Icelandic ponies.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ongoing Live Questions

Hello Upper Sixth!

This is a bit of an experiment, you can post questions here and i can answer them, it is ongoign, so the response may not be immediate, but i would like you to use it as a place to make suggestions for resources/help over the half term period.

I havent used this particular piece of technology before, the Lower Sixth Geologists have had a number of evening revision sessions using something similar, but this is a work in progress, so.....

What it could be used for - comments of case studies, suggestions on what to cover in class next week, requests for further information, I will be posting relevant articles, links to resources as i make them, and updates on events at college after you finish next week.

All feedback much appreciated!


Hazards Revision Session

This is a live online Q and A, intended as a place for those of you in exams for the day to ask anything you may need to after college. Attendance is non compulsory, you dont need to create an account, you just go to the blog (this page) type a question and i will answer, bear in mind your comments are not published live, but are published by me, and if it is a long question, please give me a few minutes to type!

There will be a separate climate session on the tuesday after the climate revision day

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hello Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth resitting skills!

Here on Monday night there will be a live online Q and A for the skills exam. This is a very simple way for you to revise, all you do is come to this blog page, and type a questn and I will answer it for you!

The sessions have been runni really successfully in Geology, and they can be very useful to you. You do not need to create a ness account, or do anything particularly IT based, just turn up, ask your questions and then stay for as long as you want.

The session will run for around two hours, longer if there are lots of people, could you Be aware that your comments are published by me, so there may be a sho time delay, and when a question needs a longer answer, give me time to type it!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Upper Sixth! Revision Help

Hello Uppers!

AS the AS geography exam is next week, I'm aware that the blog and the workshops have been very much focused on the Lower Sixth topics, so here is a post just for you!

Nick has very kindly been through the textbook and come up with a list of subheadings that could easily be the focus of the short answer questions this summer. They are categorised by module, and would make an excellent format for you to make sure you have all the notes you need and case studies for each.

You should be, and should have been for some time, revising pretty hard by now. The exams have a nasty habit of creeping up on us very fast at this time of year, and they are now a month away. As you enter the final fortnight (Sob/Cry/Scream in delight at the idea of under two more weeks of lessons), you need to ensure you have everything you need from us before the half term break.

So, the subheadings:

The theory of plate tectonics
Features of plate margins
Hot Spots
Distribution of volcanoes
Volcanic eruptions
Intrusive and extrusive volcanic activity in the UK
The impact of volcanic eruptions
Causes of earthquakes
Magnitude and frequency
The effects of earthquakes

Structure of the atmosphere
The atmospheric heat budget
Planetary surface winds
Atmospheric pressure and winds
The general atmospheric circulation system
British Isles - basic climatic characteristics
British Isles – Air masses affecting the….
The origin and nature of depressions
The origin and nature of anticyclones
Storm events
Tropical Monsoon Climate
Tropical Revolving Storms
The urban heat island effect
Urban areas – precipitation, fog, air quality, winds
Evidence for climate change
Possible causes of climate change
Effects of global warming
Effects on monsoon climate
Effects on the UK
Responses to global warming

Development and Globalisation
Global Marketing
Patterns of production, distribution and consumption
Growth in the 21st Century
Countries at low levels of development
Quality of Life
Social problems
Global groupings
Social and economic groupings
Growth of the EU
TNCs - definitions
TNCs – growth and location
TNCs – globalisation
TNCs - Social, economic and environmental impacts
Trade vs Aid
Economic vs environmental sustainability
Sustainable tourism: myth or reality

As ever with geography, the best answers have the following characteristics:
  1. Terminology - we wouldn't teach it if you didn't need to know it, so use it. There is a dictionary on moodle that you can fill out with all the key words from all the modules this year.
  2. Structure - Don't just write everything you know in a rush, take your time and answer questions properly, categorise your sentences and make sure you write in good English.
  3. Case Studies - quite often, even if the question doesn't say "Using case studies analyse...." they are still expecting you to demonstrate knowledge of real world examples.  It can never hurt to "name drop" a few examples into the short answer questions.
The last point to remember, is that there are marks available for "Thinking like a geographer", this is exam board terminology, Nick, Nikki and I have all been at exam meetings with our Chief Examiner talking about how impressed he is when students demonstrate they understand the nature of the subject, how the syllabus links together, using unique and local examples etc.

What he is really trying to say, is that by this stage in your education you should realised that geography is everywhere, and concerns pretty much everything. Therefore you can talk about anything you have learned, not just in this subject and your other AS modules, but your other subjects too. What have you read in the news? What is important to you that you understand and can relate to geography? Use examples, use your brains and look at the subject as a whole.

That may all sound a bit wishy washy and all-encompassing coming from a possibly slight over enthused teacher, so to make it clear, lets define what geography is:

  • The bridge between the human and physical sciences?
  • The science of dealing with the earth, its lands, features, inhabitants and phenomena
  • Spatial analysis of natural and human phenomena
  • Understanding the earth and everything that takes place on it or in it
  • How has the earth changed and developed and come to be as it is today?
  • A world discipline?
In reality, for the numpty like me, Geography is the study of people and place, and how the two interact. It is studying how we are affected by and affect the planet.

So, set yourselves up with a list of revision topics, the case studies and the revision booklets. Traffic light topics, make new notes, believe me this really helps, and come to workshops. We are currently finalising a post half term structured week of revision, designed as last minute help, with a day on each topic and a session on exam technique for short and long answers.

Hope this helps, if you have any particular requests for assistance with Upper sixth revision, leave them here as a comment and i will try to make it happen!


PS - As of next week, all Upper sixth classes are open to all upper sixth students, there are columns in 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7, please feel free to come along if you want to.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mississippi Flooding

Hello Geographers,

A very successful visit from UWE today, a summary post will be coming your eway shortly so if you couldnt make it, there will be materials you can use to add to your exams.

On a topical issue, and one that can be used for your Lower Sixth exams next week, the Mississippi is currently experiencing its largest floods in nearly a century, so here is a brief (well maybe) post about current affairs geograpahy and rivers.

Obviously,the first priority right now, is dealing with the social impact, those families and communities that are flooded out, expecting to be flooded or have already lost possessions and their homes in this months floods. After an April that received 600% of average rainfall, the floods started high up in the rivers very long, long profile, and the crest/peak of the flood is making its way to the delta tonight.

To start, here are some before and after photos taken from the Daily Mail website:

The standing floodwater in this part of the states brings some unique issues, including the presence of snakes like this one:

With the river just centimeters below an all time record, and 500 000 acres of farmland flooded by the deliberate breach of a levee to alleviate flooding downstream, here are some more pictures and a summary of impacts at the end.

Fish jumping to catch flies over flooded farmland.

A deer taking shelter on the roof of a house.

A levee breached to lessen pressure on defences downstream and prevent overtopping. 

  • The nine floating casinos in Tunica County Mississippi have been forced to close, the gross $87 million a month, employ 9,700 people and contribute $10 million a month to local and state taxes
  • At Present there are ten oil refineries at risk, threatening a total of 13.7% of domestic oil refinery, this has caused a 13.3% rise is gas prices to $3.38 a gallon. 
  • Following the threat to crops, cotton prices have risen 5% in three days, corn 4% and Soy 1%. 
  • Flooding estimated to cost Arkansas agricultural industries $500 million

Social Impacts:

  • Thousands have been evacuated in Tennessee and Mississippi due to rising floodwaters, and the flood wont reach the Gulf till the end of the month, as it still has much of the 2300mile long course to travel
  • Angola State Penitentiary (Prison) is evacuated
  • 4 million people live in 63 parishes and cities adjacent to the river 

Environmental Impacts:
  • The Corps have opened the Bonnet Carre and Morganza spillways to relieve pressure on New Orleans by diverting water into Lake Ponchartrain and the Atchafalaya River Basin respectively (see picture above)
  • Snakes, Spiders, alligators and rats all a risk at the moment
  • Water Moccasin and Cottonmouth snakes are both venemous and pose a threat to people, they are seeking refuge in homes and trees.
  • In Tennessee the water reached 47.87 feet, less than a foot below the all time 1937 record
  • 3 million acres in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi expected to flood by the end of the week, with 11 million cultivated acres in Mississippi crop prices nationwide will have to rise.
  • Deer and coyotes have been spotted sharing the same levee to shelter form flood waters
  • Wild Turkeys, breeding at this time of year, are likely to see a significant drop in numbers as nests and young birds are flooded

Political Impacts:

  • With the Riverbend and Waterford 3 nuclear plants right next to the river and still downstream from the floods, lets hope we are not about to witness nuclear problems in America as well. 
  • 100 homes and 130 000 acres of land were sacrificed by blowing a levee to keep Cairo safe.
  • the Corps have spent $13 billion since 1927 protecting the Mississippi from flooding, will it work?
  • Will this lend some weight to the climate change movement in America? How much more proof do you need?

Caused by the melting of heavy snowfall, and an unusually wet April and with more thunderstorms expected on thursday, as the crest reaches the delta, this disaster is far from over yet. Cairo has been saved by repeated a 1937 flood eent of dynamiting a levee to relieve pressure, this floods less valuable land and keeps the city safe from overtopped flood walls.On May 2nd, the level in Cairo had reached 61.2 feet, breaking the 1937 record of 59.5ft.

Monday, 9 May 2011

UWE Visit on Wednesday

Dear All

As you know, this Wednesday some of the lecturers from the geography department at UWE (University of the West of England) are coming down to give three lectures. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to firstly learn some more about University life in Bristol, and in a very exciting geography department, and to experience a sort of taster session for lectures. They have written three sessions, two of them aimed at the AS, and one specifically for the A2, and they will be very beneficial to your revision. With the Exams looming next week, a break from routine and a fresh perspective on geography will be a good idea for all of you!

If you are in Column 2 (Weds afternoon lessons) you will be attending the lectures as part of your class, if you arent, you are invited to come into either B21 for the Lower Sixth (Uppers are also welcome, especially if you are retaking Unit 1), and the Upper sixth in B110, which is upstairs in B block at the far end of the corridor (opposite end from Geography and one floor up).

The two lower sixth lectures are:

Coastal Management in Bridgwater Bay - Dr Chris Spencer

River Management and Climate Change - Dr Chris Parker

Both will run for around an hour, and will cover some of what we have done in class, and a little bit extra, I cannot emphasis enough how valuable attending these sessions will be, and there will be an opportunity to talk to Chris and Chris about life at UWE which is a very popular destination for our students.

The Upper Sixth Lecture will be something rather special, you have all trolled through the lessons on evidence for global climate change, and if you were with me today, a fairly dull session on various pieces of legislation and other responses to global climate change (Remembered! Not Global warming anymore!).

Dr Wendy Woodland will be giving a lecture on....

"Climate Change - Back to the future"

And in the lab you will be looking at some actual evidence, that may make the topic a bit more tangible, and probably a lot more interesting than when I taught it! She is bringing some samples with her, and you will be using microscopes to identify the evidence, very scientific for geography!

So, if you can, please try to make yourself free for weds afternoon, everyone is welcome, please be courteous and turn up on time, and bring some paper to make a few notes on.

In addition, we are now only a week away from the exams, keep revising, if you are bored of revising one way, take a break and try something new, there are lots of online activities, there are terminology revision cards for coasts and rivers, and some describe the picture cards (I will explain in class tomorrow).

Apart from that, try get revising, a good site for questions, other resources etc, and dont forget, google earth, fly around and look at your case studies, where are they, what can you see. Test each other, come to workshops, join a revision forum online, post a queston to the fb page!

Just dont give up now, there is still a lot of time that can really make a difference!

One final word of warning, "I just read through my notes millie, i learn better that way" or similar sentences worry me, you need to cover as many different ways of learning as possible, and just re-reading your notes is not enough. You need to hear it (From me), Write it (You did that), preferably rewrite it (revision cards?), Read it (Module booklets, notes, that old fashioned thing called a text book) and preferably, if you have understanding friends, parents or pets, say it out loud, you can tell if you have really understood something if you can explain it to someone else.

See you all in the morning!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Volcanic Place quizzes!

A new revision activity, aimed at the Upper Sixth, find the case study! Follow the link and the picture, get three clues and then locate the case study on google earth

My placespotting.com quiz

Question 2:

My placespotting.com quiz

Question 3:

My placespotting.com quiz

Question 4:

Question 5:

Question 6:

The other volcanic case studies will be coming your way soon, if anyone fancies making some for the other modules feel free just send me the links and ill post them to FB or the blog.

Happy hunting!