Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, and stars at night

January 5, 2015

Tweet from the Wilderness Society. Devil's Tower National Monument, in Wyoming, at night.

Tweet from the Wilderness Society. Devil’s Tower National Monument, in Wyoming, at night. Photo by Alex Weimer, from his flickr feed


Heavens at Devil’s Tower

November 14, 2014

Milky Way over Devil's Tower, Wyoming;  Photo courtesy of Dave Lane Astrophotography. — at Devils Tower National Monument-Official NPS site.

Milky Way over Devil’s Tower, Wyoming; Photo courtesy of Dave Lane Astrophotography. — at Devils Tower National Monument-Official NPS site.

From the Department of Interior’s Facebook page:

America’s first national monument, Devils Tower is a geologic feature that protrudes out of the rolling prairie in Wyoming. David Lane captured this amazing 16-image panorama of the monument illuminated by the Milky Way and green airglow. Of visiting Devils Tower, David says: “From ancient stories of the Pleiades taking refuge at the top to the generations of Native Americas that held it sacred, it had a deep sense of age and a stoic nature that impressed me. It’s so unexpected, so large in person, so steeped in traditions.”

Photo courtesy of Dave Lane Astrophotography. — at Devils Tower National Monument-Official NPS site.

Dave Lane Astrophotography seems to have this photographing of the night sky down really well.

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“Out of Yellowstone,” Nature Conservancy film on surviving the winter, and surviving the future

September 19, 2011

It seems like just a few months ago that Kathryn the Trophy Wife™ and I honeymooned in Yellowstone National Park, for a glorious January week.  On more than one occasion we had Old Faithful all to ourselves — it seemed like such an indulgence.

Seems just a few months ago, but that was before the 1988 fires, before our 1989 vacation there, before our 2004 ceremony casting the ashes of brother Jerry and his wife Barbara to the Yellowstone winds.

Will Yellowstone be there for our children, and for our grandchildren, as it has been for my lifetime?  The Nature Conservancy produced a 16-minute film showing much of the glory of winter of the place, and talking about the problems.

For the deer, elk and pronghorn in and around Yellowstone National Park, surviving the winter means finding adequate food and areas with low snow accumulation. But this critical winter range is increasingly threatened by energy and residential development. At stake is the very future of the Greater Yellowstone region’s iconic wildlife. This film highlights the voices of those working together to save these magnificent herds: ranchers, conservationists, scientists and others. http://www.nature.org/yellowstone

Growing up in the Mountain West, I learned to appreciate the stark beauty of the cold northern desert — but seldom is that beauty captured on film so well as it is here.  Phlogiston Media, LLC, made a remarkable, beautiful film, about a remarkable, beautiful land threatened by gritty, banal and mundane development.

This movie has been viewed only 542 times when I posted it.  Spread the word, will you?


What social studies teachers will do for others

March 19, 2010

Social studies teacher Jeff Brazil gets his head shaved alongside Lars Schou - Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Social studies teacher Jeff Brazil gets his head shaved alongside Lars Schou on Thursday at Jackson Hole High School as part of St. Baldrick’s, a cancer awareness campaign and fundraiser - News&Guide Photo / Price Chambers/JACKSON HOLE DAILY


Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm of 2010 fizzling out?

January 27, 2010

Inside Yellowstone noted just three earthquakes in the Yellowstone swarm in a 24-hour period covering most of Saturday.

It wasn’t the End of the World as Old Faithful Knows It, after all.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) suggests the swarm continues, however — but doesn’t suggest anyone should be too concerned about it.

As of January 26, 2010 9:00 AM MST there have been 1,360 located earthquakes in the recent Yellowstone National Park swarm. The swarm began January 17, 2010 around 1:00 PM MST about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of the Old Faithful area on the northwestern edge of Yellowstone Caldera. Swarms have occurred in this area several times over the past two decades.

There have been 11 events with a magnitude larger than 3, 101 events of magnitude 2 to 3, and 1248 events with a magnitude less than 2. The largest events so far have been a pair of earthquakes of magnitude 3.7 and 3.8 that occurred after 11 PM MST on January 20, 2010.

The first event of magnitude 3.7 occurred at 11:01 PM MST and was shortly followed by a magnitude 3.8 event at 11:16 PM. Both shocks were located around 9 miles to the southeast of West Yellowstone, MT and about 10 miles to the northwest of Old Faithful, WY. Both events were felt throughout the park and in surrounding communities in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

See the University of Utah Seismograph Stations for the most recent earthquake data and press releases. The team is working 24/7 to analyze and communicate information about the swarm. Seismograph recordings from stations of the Yellowstone seismograph network can be viewed online at: http://quake.utah.edu/helicorder/yell_webi.htm.

You can get the information from the horse’s mouth (Dragon’s Mouth?) — some enterprising earth sciences, geography or general science teacher can probably work up a great assignment for students to deal with the data and make sense from them.

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com imageGround deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com image

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos, in 2005 - Geology.com image (This isn't really directly related to the earthquake swarm, but it's a cool image.)

Update, March 12, 2011: This post has been mighty popular over the last week.  Can someone tell me, in comments, whether this post was linked to by another site?  Why the popularity all of a sudden — even before the Japan earthquake and tsunami?  Please do!


Disaster in Yellowstone Park: 20 years after the fires, it’s healing

September 17, 2008

High school students weren’t alive when Yellowstone burned in 1988. Do you remember?

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

It was a conflagration that made hell look like good picnicking. 1988 was a particularly dry summer, and hot. Lightning and human carelessness ignited fires across western North America. Five huge fires raged out of control, and burned huge swaths out of forests in Yellowstone National Park that probably hadn’t seen fire in 80 years, maybe longer.

The Salt Lake Tribune featured several stories about the fires and Yellowstone’s recovery today, “Yellowstone: Back from the ashes,” how wildland firefighting changed, a great chart on fire succession stages, and another chart on the effects of the fire on larger animals in the Yellowstone system.

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

The 1988 fires made history in several ways; it was the first time so many fires had burned simultaneously. Ultimately some of the fires merged into even greater conflagrations. The fires forced the shutdown of tourism and other activities in the Park. Inadequacies in fire fighting equipment, staffing and policies were highlighted and displayed in newspapers and on television for weeks, forcing changes in policies by cities, states and the federal government.

Some good came out of the fires. Much undergrowth and dead wood had choked off plant diversity in some places in the Park. The fires opened new meadows and offered opportunities for some species to expand their ranges.

Scientifically, a lot of information came out of the fires. The mystery of when aspen would seed out was solved — new aspen seedlings appeared in areas where the fires had sterilized the ground with extremely high temperatures that seemed to trigger the seeds to germinate.

Our visits in 1989 offered a lot of opportunities to look at very bleak landscapes.

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Recover of the forested areas began rather quickly, but will take time to cover over all the scars of the fires.

Other resources:


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