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Environmental Geology. Prof. Steven Dutch Office: LS 463 Phone: 465-2246 Email: [email protected] Home Page: www.uwgb.edu/dutchs. Minerals. Toxins Hg, Cd, As, etc. Carcinogens Asbestos, Silica Sand Radiological hazards Uranium and Thorium decay series (U, Th, Ra, Rn, Po)

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environmental geology

Environmental Geology

Prof. Steven Dutch

Office: LS 463

Phone: 465-2246

Email: [email protected]

Home Page: www.uwgb.edu/dutchs

  • Toxins
    • Hg, Cd, As, etc.
  • Carcinogens
    • Asbestos, Silica Sand
  • Radiological hazards
    • Uranium and Thorium decay series (U, Th, Ra, Rn, Po)
  • Hazards arise from:
    • Bulk Chemistry
    • Trace impurities
    • Physical State
igneous rocks and volcanoes
Igneous Rocks and Volcanoes
  • Direct volcanic hazards
    • Lava Flows
    • Ash falls
    • Pyroclastic flows
    • Mudflows
    • Landslides and cone collapse
    • Floods
    • Gases
  • Climatic effects
    • Stratospheric ash
    • Sulfur aerosols
  • Super-Volcanoes
    • Magma chamber collapse
    • Flood basalts
surface water
Surface Water
  • Lack of potable water is the single greatest hazard to human health
    • Women in arid developing regions spend up to 1/3 of their time gathering water
    • Diarrhea from contaminated water is the single greatest cause of infant mortality.
    • Aid workers have to fight to convince mothers that diarrhea is not a normal childhood disease
  • Problems with surface water
    • Disease organisms
    • Contamination by pollutants and sewage
  • Overuse of Surface Water
    • "Whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting over."
    • Owens Valley, California
    • Aral Sea
ground water
Mechanics of ground water

Recharge zone



Springs, wetlands and lakes

Artesian systems



Human impacts on ground water

Cone of depression

Migration of salt water and contaminants

Contamination of aquifers

Land subsidence

Impact on surface water

Ground Water
No soil, no food. It's that simple.

Soils are complex entities, resulting from the interaction of:





Types of Soils

Soil Erosion

Poor plowing practices



Other Soil Degradation

Climatically inappropriate farming


Soil preservation approaches

Contour plowing

Strip cropping

No-till agriculture


weathering and erosion
Weathering and Erosion
  • Floods
    • River floods
    • Coastal floods
    • Dam Failure (Natural or Artificial)
  • Mass Wasting
    • Soil Creep
    • Mudflows
    • Avalanches
    • Slumps
deserts and wind erosion
Deserts and Wind Erosion
  • Desertification
    • Expansion of deserts at the margins due to overgrazing and deforestation
    • "The Bedouin is not the son of the desert, but its father."
    • North Africa was forested in pre-Roman times
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Wind Erosion
    • Loess soils feed the world
    • Present-day wind erosion strips topsoil
    • Burial of vegetation or exposure of roots
    • Respiratory hazards
    • Cost of clearing wind-blown sediment from roads
coastal processes
Coastal Processes
  • Storm Surges
    • Galveston, 1900
    • Bangladesh, 1971
    • New Orleans, 2005
  • Subsidence
    • Louisiana
  • Erosion
    • Effects on property values
    • Attempts to control

Plate boundaries



“Earthquakes don’t kill people, Buildings kill people”




Hazard Mitigation




Short Term (Precursors)

Long Term (Seismic Gaps, Paleoseismology)

Mineral Resources

Metallic versus non-metallic

Extraction methods

Environmental Impacts

Non-Petroleum energy resources




Petroleum and Natural Gas

Geopolitical and Geological realities

Petroleum production

Non-conventional energy sources

Methane hydrates

Tar sands

Oil shales

Oil mining

Hot dry rock geothermal

Deep Earth gas hypothesis

extraterrestrial hazards
Can we predict impacts?

The Torino Scale of Impact Hazard

Named for the city in Italy, not a person

Assesses both probability of event and potential effects of impact

Therefore not completely consistent.

Likely impact scenarios

Atmospheric impact and air burst (Tunguska, 1908)

Surface impact causing local damage

Surface impact with 100 km damage radius

Surface impact with 1000 km damage radius

Surface impact with global effects

What happens during impact

Environmental Effects

Radiant heat and flash burns

Blast wave

Seismic waves



Stratospheric dust

Liberated volatiles (carbon dioxide, sulfur, methane)

Impact volcanism - a myth

Extraterrestrial Hazards
military impacts on the environment
Military Impacts on the Environment
  • Clausewitz: "War is policy carried on by other means."
    • All war is inherently political
    • The last general who was utterly unconstrained was Napoleon
  • Incidental (collateral) damage
  • Modifications to facilitate own operations
  • Modifications to impede enemy
  • Strategic Modifications
  • Environmental Terrorism
exponential growth
Exponential Growth
  • Invest one cent at 1% interest per year, compounded annually, in the year 1 AD
  • By now it would be worth $.01 x (1.01)2011 = $4,900,000.00
  • At 2%: $1,895,592,883,959,335.15 or 30 times the total GDP of the earth
  • At $1000 per ounce = 58,952,939 tons of gold.
  • Total amount of gold ever mined is around 150,000 tons. You could not be paid in gold.
exponential growth1
Exponential Growth
  • Doubling time = 72 years / % annual growth rate
    • 4% = 18 years
    • 3% = 24 years
    • 2% = 36 years
    • 1% = 72 years
  • Implications for Earth
    • All exponential growth, no matter how low the rate, eventually becomes huge.
    • You can't get an infinite amount of anything (like people) into a finite space
    • You can't get an infinite amount of anything (like resources) out of a finite space
    • Nothing can grow forever
exponential growth2
Exponential Growth
  • At 2% per year, global population will be:
    • 12 billion in 2041
    • 24 billion in 2077
    • 48 billion in 2113
    • One person per square meter (land and sea) in 2594
    • Equal to the mass of the earth in 3596
  • What will limit growth?
    • Natural methods (famine, disease and war)
    • Imposed by society (China's one-child policy)
    • Personal preference (Demographic Transition)
  • No amount of environmental awareness will matter unless population growth stops
exponential growth3
Exponential Growth
  • Impacts on Earth
    • Diversion of primary capacity to feed humans (now at least 25%)
    • Destruction and fragmentation of habitat
    • Direct consumption of animals and plants for food and fuel
    • Increased degradation of land by erosion
    • Increased hazard to humans as populations in dangerous terrain increase
  • Prognosis
    • Humans will probably always operate in crisis management mode (not dealing with a problem always offers immediate returns)
    • Sooner or later we will miscalculate our ability to avert disaster