Friday, 30 March 2012

Nargis and Katrina Compared

Dear Upper Sixth Below is a summary of the differences between the two case studies, the information on Burma is a little out of date, do some googling to check on current politics! Hurricane Case Studies Compared

Friday, 23 March 2012

Iceland Day 3

Dear readers, we are currently sat eating rotten shark, or trying not to vomit from the smell, videos to follow later! We have had a wet day, but we have seen lots, we started out at Laki, and our first stop was the remnants of the old bridge, destroyed in the 1996 Grimsvotn eruption, which now conveniently makes a perfect slide!

We moved on to the visitors centre and took a brisk walk up to the Svartifoss waterfall, a really special waterfall that tumbles over perfect columnar joints, very much like the Giants Causeway, but on a slightly grander scale:

It has been raining pretty heavily all day, but we had our final stop at the really spectacular Ice Lagoon, the one where they filmed the bond movie (Die another day - where they have the big car chase over the ice) and saw a lot of seals, Ed has some fantastic close up shots of a few of them that popped up to the surface, but there were around 15 seals floating around, and some students testing the icebergs (luckily, they float):

We walked from the lagoon over the beach, which was very wet and windy, but did manage to get a few nice shots:

Tomorrow is back to Reykjavik, a swim, another waterfall and a pizza challenge, before home on saturday!


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Iceland Day 2

Dear readers

Today has been a fantastic day, despite a wet start, it has been clear and sunny for the most part, and we have had a very busy, but really interesting day. We started out at Seljandfoss, the waterfall you can walk behind, it was a little wet, but our waterproofs were given a pretty thorough testing as some of us chose to stand underneath it:

Some of us got a bit damp:

Following the waterfall, we moved on to the newly opened eruption centre, from the E15 eruption of 2010, where we saw a great short movie, and acquired a truly awesome new poster for the classroom. To be revealed on our return. We met some very friendly, and fluffy Icelandic horses, a special breed almost unique to Iceland, known for their thick coats and ability to stay outside all winter, they are apparently partial to bread, but none of them seemed to bothered when we offered them some lunch:

Then, onto the Skogar Folk Museum of Icelandic Life, where we had a very comprehensive tour, and some of the students really enjoyed it, others were more dubious:

But Sam looks like he's having a great time outside:

The, the real treat of the day was our trip up to the top of the Myjrdasjokul Icecap, which rests directly above Katla, which is, s the icelanders say, "Pregnant", we started out in some mini monster truck like things, in which we had a lot of chat from Peter and Kieran about pretty much everything:

and transferred to a snow mobile trailer up to the top of the icecap:

We had some serious fun sledging down a small hill at the top of the glacier, videos to follow, and then moved on the a field where you build your own cairn, Nick broke out the Northern Monkey outfit:

And then we stopped to look at the Icelandic Special Moss:

The forecast for tomorrow isn't great, but neither was today, and the volcano didn't erupt when we were on top of it, no sign of the Northern Lights yet, but maybe tomorrow, and possibly some video if I have time, but overall, everyone seems to be having a good time, and we just had some fantastic traditional Icelandic Lamb for dinner. Leave us a comment if you are reading!


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Iceland Day 2


We have made it safely through our first day of activities, with a fantastic caving trip to start the morning off, going down a new Lava Tube we have not visited before, we have seen some very bizarre rock formations,  I am not sure how they formed:

In addition, we saw some ceilings covered in Lavasicles, formed as the tube emptied out for the last time:

We posed for some very chilly team photos:

We also managed to get some lovely individual shots of Huish Earth Scientists in action:

Following the caving trip, we went off over a very snowy mountain road in our superbus to Thingvellir national park to stand in the rift valley, and have a good look at the very large hole that opened up the day after we visited last year. The track is now closed, but we spent about an hour looking at the lake, the money pools and the drowing pool:

We then moved rapidly on to Geysir National Park, where we spent some time watching the large eruptions and not getting wet!

And finally, on to Gulfoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, a spectacular fault guided water fall covered in snow:

Tomorrow is looking wet at the moment, it is raining pretty heavily, but we are off to see more waterfalls, and a nice dry trip around the folk museum, which is one of my favourite spots.

Hello to everyone back home!


Iceland Day 1

Hello Readers!

we are here in not so sunny Iceland, we got here last night and went straight t the Blue Lagoon which was fantastic, but  little breezy, and had a fantastic dinner at the Cafe Paris, some of us had burgers, some had Icelandic Lamb, a couple had Minke Whale Steaks (!!!???!!). The hotel is lovely and we are off this morning to do some caving in a lava tube before the sleet storms begin this afternoon! Everyone is bundled up with about 6 layers of thermals, but the day looks good, and at the moment, we have a fantastic view across to the Mountains from Rejkavik 101!

Hopefully there will be some pictures later on, enjoy the sunny weather back home!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Iceland Weather

Dear All

A quick update on the weather in Iceland, and a slight change to the itinerary. At the moment, it is looking lovely in Iceland, but by monday evening when we arrive, it looks very, very wet:

As such, please make sure that you have put your waterproofs in your day sack, or even better,wear them on the plane, as you do not want to start the trip wet and cold. If you are not appropriately dressed each day, you are staying on the bus! I think some waterproof trousers are going to be important this year.

Other things to have in your hand luggage:

English Money for breakfast - we will stop on the way up, and there is some time in the airport

Swimmers - no towel needed in the Blue Lagoon

Icelandic Money - you may wish to buy a snack at the Blue Lagoon

Extra layer for post Blue Lagoon warmth

Hat - essential

Passport - I will be checking these when you arrive in the morning

Departure Time: 0545 (morning time on MONDAY)

The Kit List again:


·         Layering is the key to retaining body heat because air is trapped between the layers and therefore ‘insulates’ your body from the cold.

·         Several thin layers are more effective than any one thick garment.

·         Woollen fabrics are better insulators than synthetic fabrics such as nylon or polyester.

·         Some modern fabrics are excellent, allowing water vapour to pass through without losing any heat.

·         Don’t forget your legs! Warm trousers (not jeans) are essential, but bring light ones for summer and always bring waterproof trousers whatever the time of year.

·         ... on your feet! Thick woollen socks are best (not nylon)

·         A Hat! Needed all year – more heat is lost through the head than any other part for the body. A warm one for winter that also can cover the ears is good. A scarf is essential October to April to protect the neck.

·         Gloves (waterproof): frozen fingers hurt, wet fingers lose heat: uncovered wrists can have significant heat loss.

·         Depending on the weather, anything between 1 and 5 layers will be required.

Suggested layers:                    Base layer of a thermal vest/long johns if cold

                                                        Cotton T-shirt if warm

                                                        Collared shirt/rugby top or polo sweater (scarf if not polo)

                                                        Woollen/breathable fleece/sweater

                                                        Insulated jacket/fleece

                                                        Waterproof outer garments (top and bottom)

If going in summer, then 3 layers would be normal (and include shorts just in case!!). Whatever time of year, be prepared to carry an extra layer in your daysack.

WARNING: Overheating (too many layers) can be as debilitating and dangerous as getting cold, so don’t start your day looking like an arctic explorer/Michelin man or woman by wearing everything!


·         Getting wet leads to cold/heat loss which can lead to hypothermia which is very serious

·         A fully waterproof out garment is ABSOLUTELY essential. Beware of misleading claims common amongst cheaper brands of nylon-based garments. Gore-Tex, Paramo or similar fabric is advisable.

·         Waterproof trousers are a must.


·         Boots are essential! Trainers, however expensive, are no substitute as they don’t give you ankle support. Wellington boots are not to be used as although they are waterproof, they’re useless for gripping on wet rocks.

·         Please don’t feel obliged to spend a small fortune on 4-season boots which may only be used for a week. Any waterproof with a vibram or similar moulded rubber sole will be adequate. Please wear them in before going to Iceland


The places where we stay are warm and comfortable and so you will need light clothing and footwear (eg trainers) to change into during the evening.


·         Sunglasses – all year round there’s a high albedo (reflection of sunlight) off snow and ice. They also protect you from dust-storms if there are high winds blowing off ash areas. Contact lens users may wish to bring ‘goggles’.

·         A small day-sack – big enough to carry spare jumper/waterproofs plus packed lunch, drinks bottle, camera etc

·         Sun-block cream in the warmer months


·         Towel (suitable for when swimming)

·         Swim-wear

·         Personal Toiletries

·         Personal medications (staff responsible need to be aware and informed of any prescribed medications)


·         Thermos flask (or water bottle in summer)

·         A seriously LARGE block of chocolate (chocolate is ridiculously expensive to buy in Iceland) or multiple packs

·         Camera (don’t forget charging and download cables as well as spare batteries)

·         Plasters and paracetamol etc

·         Writing paper, pens, pencils

·         Plastic bags


For reasons of safety, the use of personal stereos/ipods etc with head-phones/ear pieces is not permitted when out in the field. Batteries will be expensive in Iceland so bring your own spare ones. You must have your own personal insurance for any such items


·         Rules and regulations will be kept to a minimum

·         When instructions are given, they are given for a reason ... YOUR SAFETY!

·         Follow all instructions from your staff/party leader

·         Disregarding any instructions will be viewed as being a serious breach of discipline

WE, the staff, rely heavily on YOU to make this a successful, enjoyable and memorable experience: we are a team together!

You have the emergency contact details, if not:

Most mobiles will work in Iceland, and if you need to get in touch, please call or text one of the trip mobiles. Alternatively, during the day time, use the main college number and they will get a message to us through the duty manager, Martyn Owen. If you have an out of hours emergency, Rob Setchell is our designated emergency contact, and will be able to get in touch with us at any time.

Trip Mobile Numbers: 07583298460/07825630026

College Number: 01823 320800 –Duty Manager Martyn Owen

Emergency Contact:  Rob Setchell - 07712 611653

We plan to arrive back at RHC on Saturday the 24th at around 4:30pm, we will ask students to call you an hour before arriving with an accurate update. There will be limited internet access on the trip, but hopefully, you will be able to follow us through the Geography Blog.

Any questions, get in touch with me quickly!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Atmosphere and Circulation help

Dear All

Our current topic (Climate for those who dont go to Huish!) is widely accepted to be a little bit challenging, so I thought a special blog post on how to learn about this in a different way might be appreciated. So, first of all, a recap on the most basic rules of circulation in the atmosphere, if you dont want to read, the BBC have produced a really outstanding TV show, called "Orbit" which you can watch here, I would consider this a really excellent way to spend an hour, as it makes the entire start of the module easy and is very visual. They even have a blog centre for more reading, but in the mean time:

1. The spin of the earth:

Earth spins towards the East, if you are attached to the surface (Continents, people, trees etc) then you do not feel this effect, but, for all gases and liquids, the spin of the earth to the East, deflects surface flows towards the West. Hence, all ocean currents, surface winds, hurricanes, are pushed to the west. If the earth did not have any continents, the oceanic currents would just move around the globe, from east to west, but, the continents complicate the issue, and force ocean currents to deflect North, in the Northern Hemisphere, and South, in the Southern hemisphere, along the Eastern edges of the continents.

2. The tilt of the earth:

We tilt at an angle of 23.4 degrees away from an imaginary line that is perpendicular to our orbital plane. Our tilt, or obliquity, does not alter as we move around the sun, therefore, over our summer time, we are tipped towards the sun, summer starting during the spring equinox, through to the summer solstice and on to the september equinox, when we enter winter, as we start to tip away from the sun, reaching our maximum distance, during the winter solstice, or as you may know it, as December the 22nd.

This tilt, is what brings us the seasons, and what causes the ITCZ to move over the course of the year.

3. Convection:

This really is a key concept in Earth Sciences as a whole. The basic principle, is that anything hot, rises, until it hits an impenetrable layer, at which it must split, and flow laterally along this boundary, loosing heat to its surroundings as it does so. Once cold, it must sink, as it has become more dense, it then hits another layer, and diverges, some goes back to the source of the heat (where there will be a vacuum as material is constantly rising), and some heads in the opposite direction.

You have come across this before:

Once you factor in the 3D nature of the planet, and the atmosphere, along with the fact that we are so big, the cells are split into three, you have the global circulation model:

4. With or against Coriolis?

The Coriolis effect, is just the name we give to anything that is affected by the spin of the earth, you have come across it with tides in the Lower Sixth. The key principle to remember, is that anything that moves towards the equator, is slowed by the Coriolis effect, and therefore is always deflected to the West. If the opposite occurs, if a movement of liquid or gas moves towards a pole along the surface, it is boosted by Coriolis, and moves with the turn of the earth.

This means, that winds in the Ferrel cell, on the surface, blowing towards the poles, blow from the SW up towards the poles (Or down, if you are below the equator).

If we are talking Jet streams and Rossby waves, this difference in speed is what controls the path of Anticyclones and depressions beneath the junction between the Ferrel and the Polar cells. These regions are often referred to as the Horseback latitudes. Hence, when the meanders on the Jet stream (which we call Rossby Waves), start to head towards the equator, they are slowed, and therefore pressure builds up in the upper Atmosphere, and all the excess air has to start moving downwards, ie towards the surface, this is what is found in the ridges of the waves (Closest to the poles), whereas in the troughs, the air starts to accelerate towards to poles, leaving behind high altitude low pressure, therefore, to fill the void, air has to be sucked up from the surface, creating a low pressure system, more commonly called a depression:

Trough: pressure is lower in a trough than to the west and east
Ridge: pressure is higher in a ridge than to the west and east

There is an excellent animation of this on the TV show recommended. This passage can sometimes get stuck, as happened in July 2008, and December 2010, as this diagram explains:

5. The ITCZ:

This is the driving force, which starts the tri-cellular model, the ITCZ stands for Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, literally, the place where the surface winds of the Hadley cell come together, and where the most intense heating of the earths surface takes place. It can easily be seen on most satellite images:

It is not a straight line, none of the boundaries between the cells are, and it moves as the earth rotates around the sun. In our winter time, it is more southerly, and over our summer time, more northerly. Where it crosses continents that sit beneath the two extremes, it causes a seasonal reversal of the winds, and this change, brings about the Monsoons:

In India, this results in the onset of the seasonal rains, this dictates plant life, agriculture and water storage, and is not always reliable. It arrives at different times of the year, depending on how far away from the Western Seaboard you are, and can be mapped like this:

The Monsoon brings between 4 months and 6 weeks of intense heavy rainfall, and along with the UK climate, is your major case study of a climatic zone.

So, 5 rules, or key things to remember, and an excellent TV show to watch, the next episode is on next sunday, the 11th, at 9 on BBC 2 - put it in your diary!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Introduction to Climate - Documentaries

Dear Students,

There have been a number of university open days and various trips out this week, so in case you missed it, here is the documentary that we have watched in class to consolidate your understanding of the basics of atmospheric circulation

As further reading, and a really excellent visualisation of the link between the circulation system, the slave trade and development, here is the episode of "How Earth Made Us - Wind", really worth watchin as part of your three hours reading for this week:

Happy reading!