Monday, March 22, 2021

Drunk on Volcanology - Crater Lake Oregon Chardonnay


The next Drunk on Geology is for Crater Lake Oregon Chardonnay by Eola Hills Wine Cellars in Rickreall, Oregon.

We had visited Crater Lake National Park over the summer of 2019 and we able to pick up this wine during dinner in the main lodge. Then afterwards I took some pictures out the back patio of the lodge overlooking the lake with Wizard Island in the background, matching the view on the bottle itself.

Crater Lake is a volcano located along the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, which runs north into British Columbia in Canada. Crater Lake was originally a full blown volcano known as Mount Mazama, which was ~12,000 feet high before it erupted ~7,700 years ago. 

Some of the major volcanoes along the Pacific Northwest.  Image courtesy of the USGS

These volcanoes formed from the process known as subduction where one of the Earth's crustal plates descends slowly below another plate. As the denser plate descends, it begins to melt. The melted rock then rises up through the crust creating a line of volcanoes known as a volcanic arc. Crater Lake is one of the volcanoes located along the Cascadian volcanic arc.
Diagram illustrating the process of subduction. Image courtesy of the USGS.

Mount Mazama, like Mount Tehama to the south that eventually eroded into Lassen Peak, was a composite volcano. There are lots of different types of volcanoes. A composite volcano is a volcano that is composed of  alternating layers of ash, lava flows, rock fragments, and cinders that slowly piled up over time from smaller eruptions. The primary type of magma in this volcano was the thicker magma, termed felsic, that has a higher silica and gaseous content than volcanoes in places like Hawaii. Felsic magma and lava has a tendency to flow slowly and also to clog up volcanic vents. This periodic clogging allows the volcano to build up pressure, both from the thick lava and the high gas content within the volcano. It is like a soda bottle being shaken before the cap is released. Around 7,700 years ago the cap was released, producing an enormous eruption that released ash, gas, rocks, and lava into the air and surrounding regions. Eventually the magma chamber mostly emptied, leaving a gaping void below the mountain peak, which collapsed in on itself. This formed a bowl shaped depression known as a caldera. Later, smaller eruptions sealed the caldera floor, allowing for water to accumulate over time.

Crater Lake is one of the few volcanic calderas that are fully isolated from the surrounding water environment. Water only leaves the lake through evaporation, and a small amount of seepage, while it only enters the lake through snow and rainfall, keeping the lake at a nice balance. The lack of streams into the lake has also nearly eliminated the sediment within the lake, producing a crystal clear lake that reflects the deep blue of the sky. 
Text on the back of the bottle:
Located in South-Central Oregon, Crater Lake has inspired visitors for thousands of years.

Crate Lake is a place of immeasurable beauty and a reminder of the land's volcanic past. No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color, with sheer surrounding cliffs reaching towards the sky. 

Seen on the bottle label, as well as in the background of the photos, is Wizard Island, which is easily the largest island in the lake. Wizard Island was formed during the subsequent eruptions shortly after the formation of the caldera. Wizard Island is a cinder cone. A cinder cone is another type of volcano that is produced when lava splutters out of a volcanic vent. As the lava is spit into the air is cools and forms a type of rock that is usually smaller in size and has a lot of air holes called scoria. During the course of the eruption these small chunks of rock pile up around the volcanic vent and eventually pile up to form a cone. The cinder cone Wizard Island is over 700 feet high from the surface of the water. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Drunk on Volcanology - Lassen Peak Tres Rojas


The next Drunk on Geology is for Lassen Peak Tres Rojas by the Lassen Peak Winery.

We were able to pick up some of the Lassen Peak Winery bottles from the gift shop within the Lassen Peak National Park while we were there. I took these pictures from Butte Lake Campsite in the northeastern corner of the park. 

Lassen Peak is the remnant of a once much larger volcano, Mount Tehama, that erupted leaving behind a 2 mile wide caldera located between the surrounding mountains of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Map of west coast subduction zone volcanoes. Image courtesy of the USGS.

Lassen Peak is the southernmost volcanoes in the Cascade Range, a series of volcanoes that stretch up into Canada along the Pacific Northwest coast.  These volcanoes formed from a process called subduction. The crust of the Earth is broken up into very large pieces called plates. These plates move around, with some sliding past each other, some pulling apart from each other, and others going towards each other. The edge of these plates are where earthquakes frequently occur, due to the rubbing of the plates against each other. 

Illustration of a subduction zone. Image courtesy of the USGS.

When a plate composed mostly of oceanic crust goes toward a plate composed mostly of continental crust, the denser oceanic crust gets forced downwards into the Earth. This area is known as a subduction zone. As the denser oceanic plate moves downwards into the Earth it starts to heat up and eventually melt. That liquid rock rises up through the crust forming a string of volcanoes called a volcanic arc. The Cascade Range is such an arc with Lassen Peak representing the southernmost extent of the subduction zone. 

There are many different types of volcanoes. Here is a view of Lassen Peak in the distance, rising up to 10,457 feet in elevation. It is so high that during our trip at the end of June it is still entirely covered in snow. Lassen Peak is what is known as a "Plug Dome", this forms when the lava is too thick to flow great distances. Lava rich in silica (quartz), has a higher viscosity (thickness) and doesn't flow as far as thinner, basaltic magma, which is hotter and has less silica content.

Lassen Peak can also be viewed on the front of the wine bottles. The original Mount Tehama was known as a "composite volcano", which means that it was composed of alternating layers of ash, lava flows, rock fragments, and cinders that slowly piled up over time from smaller eruptions. Most of the volcanoes in the Cascades are composite volcanoes. Mount Tehama was active with frequent eruptions from about 600,000 to 400,000 years ago until the magma shifted and the volcano, losing its magma, started to collapse and erode away.

Once we reached the highest part of the road way at Lassen Peak, the snow really was still piled up. Here is a view of the snowfields along Lassen Peak at ~8,500 ft.

Despite the larger Mount Tehama having eroded away, the area is still very much volcanically active. Within the central part of the caldera, towards the bottom of the valley between the mountains, is a large hydrothermal area. The hydrothermal area contains many features that are heated up from the rich source of magma that still resides below the surface. This particular area is known as the Sulphur Works, which does have that glorious rotten egg smell, but there are a few other hydrothermal areas within the park. Hydrothermal features also have a tendency to have very vivid colors from the heavy minerals that get brought to the surface by the groundwater from the magma.

Text from the back of the bottle:
"Tres Rojas is our finest Red wine, made from a Reserve blend of three Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Our vineyards and winery are located in the mountains midway between Lassen National Park and Redding, CA, nestled in majestic pine forests. Our 2600' elevation, volcanic soils, steep terrain, and natural spring water provide ideal conditions for growing winegrapes. We use natural years fermentation in small French oak barrels to handcraft our rich and flavorful wines full of varietal character." 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Drunk on Paleontology - Pearadactyl Pear Apple Wine

For my next Drunk on Geology we have Pearadactyl - Pear Apple Wine by the Carlson Vineyards in Palisade, Colorado

Clearly named after the word Pterodactyl, the name of the wine takes advantage of the similar sounds between the the "Pter" (pronounced like tear) and the rhyming "pear". But the word Pterodactyl was first coined in 1809 by Georges Cuvier. This was based on a fossil of an unknown creature first identified in 1784 by Italian scientist Cosimo Collini, who though this must be a marine organism of some kind. Cuvier correctly discerned later that this was a flying animal and coined the phrase "Petro-dactyl" meaning "winged finger":
"Sur le squelette fossile d'un REPTILE VOLANT des environe d'AICHSTEDT, que quelques naturalistes ont pris pour un oiseau, et dont nous formons un genre de SAURIENS, sous le nom de PETRO-DACTYLE."

"On the fossil skeleton of a FLYING REPTILE from the environe of AICHSTEDT, which some naturalists have taken for a bird, and of which we form a genus of SAURIANS, under the name of PETRO-DACTYL."

Cuvier's 1812 drawing of the first "Petro-Dactyl" specimen. Image from Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrup├Ędes. t. 4 (1812).

A Latinized version of Cuvier's descriptive term for the animal was then used by Lorenz Oken in 1818 to name the animal with the official species name of Pterodactylus. Since that time, the term "pterodactyl" is not actually a scientifically valid name. The group of flying reptiles is collectively known as "pterosaurs", which are all the animals that belong to the taxonomic order Pterosauria. Within the order of Pterosauria, there are individual animals such as the Pterodactylus and the Pteranodon, but nothing that would be referred to simply as a "Pterodactyl". 

Reconstruction of the Pterodactylus. Image courtesy of the the Dinopedia Wiki Page.

But despite the misnomer, the name lives on, as anyone who has tried to Google the animal can attest to. Overall, pterosaurs are a group of flying reptiles. They are NOT dinosaurs, having branched off of the reptile family tree before dinosaurs had truly evolved. You can think of them as the cousins of dinosaurs. These flying reptiles were the first vertebrates to have evolved powered flight with some species having grown to tremendous sizes. The largest pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, stood 16 feet tall and had a wing span of 33 feet, which is the size some airplanes. They flew using a skin and muscle membrane that stretched across the first three fingers of their hands as well as between their shoulders and wrists to their hind limbs, creating their wings. Some pterosaurs also had the membranes between their legs.  

Life sized reconstruction of a Quetzalcoatlus northropi at Chicago's Field Museum from the Late Cretaceous

The group of Pterosaurs lived from 228 to 66 million years ago, going extinct at the end of the Cretaceous along with the non-avian dinosaurs when the asteroid hit the Earth. It is theorized that these animals were possibly warm-blooded with some (possibly all?) having a furry coating of hair-like filaments over their bodies. 

Trackway of a small pterosaur showing both the fore- and hind-limbs of the animal. Image courtesy of Scientific American

As pictured in the reconstruction above, pterosaurs are also known to have walked on all four limbs. Scientists know this from, not only reconstructions of the skeletons, but also fossilized trackways that preserved the hand imprints along with the feet.

Text from the back of the bottle:
"Carlson Vineyard's Pearadactyl is a 100% western Colorado grown, semi-sweet pear-apple wine best served chilled with light foods and good friends. If you close your eyes real tight and think very hard about the way it was 160 million years ago, you just might see a Pearadactyl gliding by with a delectable pear in its beak."

Looking that the Pterodactylus itself, this species of pterosaur lived during the Late Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago. This matches fairly closely with the wine's listing of "160 million years ago". 

The bottle also mentions that the Pearadactyl would have been gliding by with a "delectable pear" in its beak. Pears, and pear tree in particular, belong to a group of plants known as angiosperms. Angiosperms include all of the flowering (and fruiting) plants that we know of today. Early angiosperms are thought to have evolved in the Early Cretaceous or the Late Jurassic, ~140-250 million years ago (Nature). Along with the evolution of the flowering plants, is the evolution of the fruit that they bear. 

The pear fruit is a result of the domestication by humans of the pear tree and the cultivation over human history. The plant itself belongs to the Pyrus genus, which is estimated to have evolved only a few 10's of millions of years ago. However, it belongs to the larger group of the Rosaceae family of fruit trees. The Rosaceae family evolved ~100 million years ago, with several ancestral fruit bearing trees having existed alongside the dinosaurs and pterosaurs during the Cretaceous period. This means that although the "pear" would not have been present alongside the "Pearadactyl", perhaps an ancestral fruit would have been.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Drunk on Seismology - Tectonic Event Imperial IPA


My next Drunk on Geology is for the Tectonic Event Imperial IPA by Great Basin Brewing Company, makers of the also geologically themed beer Ichthyosaur "Icky" IPA.

What is a "Tectonic Event"? Lets look at some of the definitions of the words to get a better feel for the usage of those terms.

"A branch of geology dealing with the broad architecture of the outer part of the earth, that is, the major structural or deformational features and their relations, origin, and historical evolution."
"A non-committal term for any incident of probable tectonic significance that is suggested by geologic evidence but whose full implications are unknown. Seismic Event."
Seismic Event:
"An earthquake of a somewhat similar transient earth motion caused by an explosion."

Definitions courtesy of the Dictionary of Geological Terms, 3rd Ed. 

So clearly the usage of the term "Tectonic Event" is meant to illustrate an earthquake. Tectonic, specifically Plate Tectonics, is the study of the earth's crust as it is broken up into individual plates. These individual plates move around, slide past each other, move over and under each other, and pull away from each other. Where one plate come in contact with other plates, where these motions occur, this is where the "tectonic events" occur. This is the source of earthquakes, generally.

Plate Tectonic map of the earth. Image courtesy of the NPS

When looking at the plate boundaries in the map above and comparing them to the earthquake locations in the map below, you can see a strong similarity to the locations of these events. And in actuality, the locations of the earthquakes on maps, such as the one below, helped scientists to draw the plate boundaries on the one above. 

Map indicating the locations of earthquakes across the globe. Image courtesy of the NSF.

The plate boundaries are made up of faults. Faults are breaks, or fractures, in the the rocks and they don't just occur at plate boundaries, however the pressures that move the plates are more readily present at the plate boundaries. Earthquakes occur at these plate boundaries because as the plates move past each other the slippage isn't usually smooth.  They get stuck due to friction. However, the pressure that pushes the plates continues. So that pressure builds up over time. The longer the plates are not able to move past each other the more pressure builds up, until the friction holding the plates in place breaks and the plates have a sudden movement. This movement releases the pressure, and the energy, that had built up along the fault. The energy then radiates outwards from the fault slippage, producing the ground shaking known as an earthquake. It is this slippage that would be termed the "Tectonic Event".

Text from the side of the bottle:
"This West Coast-style IIPA features seismically bold flavors with epic momentum and magnitude. A delightfully clean malt profile gives way to powerful quakes of Columbus, Chinook, Citra, Centennial, and Amarillo hops."
One of the ways that seismologists record and study earthquakes are by studying the energy that is released during these tectonic events. This energy is recorded by a machine known as a seismograph, recording a sheet of squiggly lines known as a seismogram. 

An illustration of a seismogram

As the ground shakes, the seismograph records that shaking on a piece of paper (or digitally). Originally this was recorded by simply a pen that would remain free of the earth's motions while the paper would move around beneath it, creating these jagged lines that eventually smoothed out. This image of a seismograph is what is represented on the front of the bottle, surrounding the hops illustration. These graphs, combined with other seismograms from around the world, can be used to identify the exact location of the earthquake, how big the earthquake was (magnitude), and how much energy was released when the fault slipped. 

"Rock your palate to its core"

The reason that the Great Basin Brewing Company chose to honor the tectonic event as one of their logos is likely due to the very seismically active area that their brewery in Reno, Nevada sits within, the Great Basin. 

Map of the Great Basin, showing the north-south trending mountain ranges. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Great Basin is an area of the US that is experiencing expansion, kind of like a sponge that had been squeezed and then was let go. As the plate expands, the faults along the Great Basin periodically move because of the stresses placed on the plate due to this expansion. The expansion had produced the topography that can be seen in the image above. This area is covered with north-south trending mountain ranges, which all align with north-south trending fault lines. As the basin continues to expand, periodically these stresses from the expansion will produce earthquakes from the slippage along those faults all over the Great Basin region, including Reno, Nevada, which lies along the western edge of the basin.