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GEOL 131: Geology, the Environment, and Society University of Southern Indiana, Spring 2009


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Title: GEOL 131: Geology, the Environment, and Society University of Southern Indiana, Spring 2009

GEOL 131 Geology, the Environment, and Society
University of Southern Indiana, Spring 2009
Instructor Ron Counts
The Earth Sciences can be difficult for many to
  • Not taught in many high schools.
  • The Earth is a BIG place! (science on a very
    large scale)
  • A four dimensional science that involves
    incomprehensibly large periods of time.
  • A unifying science that incorporates math,
    physics, chemistry, and biology.

Week 1 Introduction
  • Geology The study of the Earth, includes but
    not limited to Earth materials, processes
    (internal and external), landforms, the Earths
    evolutionary history, and the history of life on

The Basics
  • Environment Everything that surrounds an
  • Physical Conditions air, water, gases, landforms
  • Social and Cultural ethics, economics,

  • Environmental Geology application of geologic
    principles and knowledge to the human environment
  • Therefore, in this class you will learn
    fundamental understandings of geological
    principles, processes, and products

  • The fundamental component of every persons
    environment is the GEOLOGIC FACTOR.
  • Environmental Geology considers
  • geomorphology
  • petrology
  • sedimentology
  • hydrogeology
  • pedology
  • economic geology
  • engineering geology

  • Environmental Geology is an Applied Science
  • Evaluate Natural Hazards
  • -floods, landslides, volcanic activity
  • -earthquakes, weather events
  • Environmental Impact Analysis
  • -site selection, land-use planning, remediation
  • Assess Earth Materials
  • -minerals, rocks, soil, WATER
  • -analysis of chemical properties
  • -analysis of physical properties

Why study environmental geology?
  • We can use environmental geology to solve
    problems....and we all have problems
  • Protect the environment and resources and deal
    with environmental crisis

Environmental Geology
  • Problems in America
  • Deforestation and sedimentation
  • Energy supply
  • Industrial waste
  • Water supply in the west
  • Loss of habitats (Bison, passenger pigeon, dust
    bowl of 1930s)
  • Urban sprawl
  • We have it made compared to China, which has
    serious problems! Why?

Environmental Geology
Convergence of three entities RESOURCES NEEDS
Fundamental Concept
I. The NUMBER ONE environmental problem is the
Increase in world population.
Environmental Geology in Action
La Conchita, a small seaside community north of
Santa Barbara, experienced a landslide and debris
flow in 1995.
Landslide and Debris Flow 1995La Conchita,
EARTHQUAKEDecember 26, 2004
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast
of Sumatra. An estimated 1200 km (750 miles) of
faultline slipped about 15 (45 ft).
TSUNAMIDecember 26, 2004
The earthquake spawned tsunamis throughout the
Indian ocean island nations.

The island nation of Sri Lanka likely suffered
many casualties, with the death toll reported at
21,715 on December 29th. Water is flowing out of
the inundated area and back into the sea,
creating turbulence offshore. Some near-shore
streets and yards are covered with muddy water.

Banda Aceh Shore, before and after 2004 tsunami.

DEATH TOLL 162,000
Earth in Space and Time
  • Chapter 1

Earth in space and time
  • Third planet from the Sun
  • over 4 billion years old
  • Mean temperature 15o C, not too hot or cold
  • Nine chemically distinct planets in our Solar
  • Four rocky and metallic inner planets
  • Inner-most planets very hot (nearest the Sun)
  • Four gaseous outer planets
  • Outer planets very cold
  • Ninth planet, Pluto, may not be a planet
  • Universe is over 15-20 billion years old

Figure 1.1
Solar System
  • Formed after the universe
  • Planets revolve around Sun
  • One complete trip for Earth equals one year
  • Earth at 23.5o tilt from the vertical
  • Hemispheres of the Earth do not receive equal
    solar energy year round
  • Because of the tilt
  • Produces seasons

Earth continuous change
  • Early Earth a barren world
  • lacked oceans
  • Lacked atmosphere
  • Earth heated up and was molten
  • Earth was target of many impacts
  • Asteroids
  • Meteors
  • comets

Earth continuous change
  • Differentiation of this world developed
    compositional zones
  • Central core dense and hot
  • Composed of nickel (Ni) and iron (Fe)
  • Mantle thick zone that surrounds the core
  • Composed of ultramafic and mafic rocks and magma
  • Heat from core escapes by convective circulation
  • Crust chemically different from core or mantle
  • Two types of crust Oceanic (mafic) and Crustal
  • Water and atmospheric gases interact only with
    outermost crust

Figure 1.3
Early Atmosphere
  • Chemically different than today
  • No modern pollution
  • Lacked free oxygen (O2)
  • Dominated by nitrogen (N) and carbon dioxide
  • Minor amounts of other gases
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Ammonia (NH3)
  • Sulfur gases
  • Barren of life

Figure 1.4
First Life
  • Early atmosphere required modification before
    life could evolve
  • Blue-green algae flourished first
  • Abundant oxygen was required for other life
  • Photosynthesis by algae produced oxygen
  • Sunlight energized a chemical reaction in algae
  • Food was produced from CO2
  • Oxygen given off as a by-product
  • Oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere
  • Life for oxygen meant breathing organisms could

Life Evolves on EarthUp to 500 million years ago
  • Early life forms little evidence
  • no hard parts (no teeth, bones, shells, or claws)
  • Earliest rocks limited life forms,
    single-celled organisms
  • 2 billion years ago some rocks show evidence of
    blue-green algae
  • Multicelled creatures appear 1 billion years ago
  • Oxygenated atmosphere developed
  • Marine animals with shells widespread by 600
    million years ago

Life Evolves on EarthLast 500 million years
  • Vertebrates appear about 500 million years ago
  • Land plants appear about 400 million years ago
  • Insects develop about 300 million years ago
  • Dinosaurs appear about 200 million years ago
  • Birds appear about 150 million years ago
  • Mammals and birds well established by 100
    millions years ago
  • Primitive human beings appear by 3 to 4 millions
    years ago
  • Homo sapiens appear during last 500,000 years

Geology as a Science
  • Geology at first was an observational science
  • People would see a geologic curiosity and
    describe it
  • Later, people would attempt to explain it
  • Modern geology combines observation and
    laboratory activities (measurements and
    calculations) to explain natural phenomena
  • Geology has grown rapidly into an analytical
  • Experiments must consider changes in temperature,
    pressure, stress, chemical parameters, and time
  • Starting materials that form rocks and minerals
    often are completely changed during the course of
  • Time seconds, minutes and hours are units of
    time that are replaced by time intervals of
    thousands, millions, or billions, of years

Scientific MethodA means to discover basic
scientific principles
  • Observation - a body of measured data is obtained
  • Hypothesis is formed to explain the observations
    or data
  • Conceptual framework or model is developed
  • Multiple explanations or equations developed
  • Must be testable and test must be reproducible
  • Proof of a hypothesis is sought as well as
    evidence to disprove it
  • Test the hypothesis repeatedly and systematically
  • Make set of predictions and perform series of
  • Theory formed as accepted explanation for an
    observation or set of data
  • Hypothesis becomes a theory only after extensive
    testing of the hypothesis

Theory versus Hypothesis
  • Theory accepted explanation
  • Must be a well tested model
  • Is subject of considerable investigation and data
    collection that is required to evaluate it
  • A hypothesis is elevated to a theory only after
    extensive debate and experimentation

Geology and the Scientific MethodGeology has
problems that other sciences do not!
  • Problems with size
  • A volcano is big
  • A river is not easily contained within a
  • Plate Tectonics involves the whole Earth
  • Problems with time
  • Geologic processes take millions of years to
  • Geologists are limited by human time (years to
  • Problems with resolution of data
  • New technology and procedures often impact, or
    challenge, old theories
  • We can see more details now than a century ago

Why Environmental Geology?
  • Earth is a dangerous place!
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Floods
  • Mass wasting
  • Global Warming
  • Soil erosion
  • Quest for more energy
  • Pollution
  • Find and manage fresh water
  • Find new resources (they are limited)
  • Remediate sites of mineral extraction
  • Storage of toxic waste

Figure 1.5
Figure 1.6
Figure 1.7
Figure 1.8
Figure 1.9
Population Growth
  • Human population has experienced exponential
  • Possibly 9 billion people by 2050
  • Slow population growth up until mid-19th century
  • Doubling times have become shorter
  • Life expectancy has increased
  • Birth rates have greatly exceeded mortality rates
  • People are more mobile and can live anywhere
  • New perils will confront us because of our
    increasing population
  • AIDS epidemic
  • Impacts dictated by economic, social, or
    religious values
  • Limited exploitation of new sources of natural
  • Growing demand by third world countries wanting
    to become first world countries

Figure 1.12
Figure 1.13
Impacts of the Human Population
  • Rapid growth of humans results in problems
    obtaining an adequate food supply
  • Expect problems with maintaining adequate
  • Water supplies for irrigation, drinking, and
  • Farmland to produce crops to fed a hungry earth
  • Supply of energy and minerals for our material
    based lifestyle
  • Pollution of air, land, and water pursuing
  • Our ever expanding, high energy, and resource
    consuming life styles

Figure 1.14
Figure 1.17
Impacts of the Human PopulationHow do we resolve
the issues?
  • What consequences will we face because of our
    growth of the human population?
  • Energy and natural resources are finite supplies
    on earth
  • Where do we find more?
  • Water supplies have been exhausted in many places
  • Where do we find more?
  • Croplands are replaced by homes and cities
  • Where do we find more?
  • Waste, the products of our life style, must be
    put somewhere
  • Where do we put it and at what cost?
  • Carrying Capacity
  • Have we exceeded it?
  • Global Warming, the activity of billions of
    people is impacting the climate of earth
  • Can we reverse it?