GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Living in the Anthropocene
Part I

Living in the Anthropocene
Part I

One of the greatest pleasures of researching and writing is encountering ideas that are new and interesting to me. The concept of the Anthropocene is one such idea that I have looked into in some detail and want to share with my blog readers. My thoughts on the subject will come to you in a new series of posts.

The concept was new to me when I first heard the word Anthropocene at the fall 2012 annual San Francisco sessions of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). I have since discovered that although the word was recently popularized, fundamental justifications for its existence have been in the minds and writings of physical scientists for some time before that. This discussion has been taking place mostly among scientists and conservationists, yet is important to us all.

First let’s consider the word itself. It seems that British scientists have generated most of the interest in whether we humans have changed the earth enough to warrant the naming of a whole new epoch. People used other terms, mostly including the Latin prefix “anthropo-“ for human, here and there in the late 20th century, but they did not catch on. The suffix “-cene” means recent, as in Holocene, which until now has been the universally accepted term for the most recent geological epoch. How to pronounce Anthropocene? In lectures I listened to, most American speakers stressed the first syllable and most Europeans stressed the second.

Ever since Nobel Prize–winning chemist Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, and Eugene F. Stoermer of University of Michigan—Ann Arbor proposed the term [1] in 2000, the stratigraphic branch of geology has been debating whether or not to formally accept Anthropocene into their lexicon and when it can best be said to have begun. (Stratigraphy is the branch of geology that deals with the origin, composition, distribution, and succession of strata.) A Working Group on the Anthropocene has been set up to decide questions regarding the new word by 2016, a year chosen to coincide with the International Geological Congress.

My next post on this subject will discuss the issues involved in the decision.

References

[1] Crutzen, P. J. and Stoermer, E. F. “The ‘Anthropocene’,” in the IGBP Newsletter, pp. 17-18, May 2000. Available at: http://www.igbp.net/download/18.316f18321323470177580001401/NL41.pdf

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Brits are getting into the “Supervolcano” act

I try to read only a few of the dozens of reports that keep coming out in the media since the magma reservoir under Yellowstone was found to be larger than previously thought. But when there is new research or informed comment by a scientist, it’s worth looking at.

Today there is an interview in the old (since 1821) and widely read daily The Guardian, formerly The Manchester Guardian, giving Prof. Bill McGuire’s take on the story: Explaining Supervolcanoes: big, hot, and dangerous.

The comments—totaling 82 when I looked at them—are almost entirely the same crazy mix we get in the States.

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Yellowstone wolf interview with the number one expert

As the New Year rolls out I am researching topics that interest me a lot to write about in posts for my blog and for one or two new nuggets of Yellowstone information for this website. This all takes a lot of time, so I don’t know just when I’ll be able to post these original articles.

In the meantime I found something about Yellowstone’s wolves that more people should read, so I’ll pass along the link. Doug Smith has been the number one guy who knows about and helps to manage the park’s wolves and has been on site since they were first introduced in 1995. Here are his very balanced answers to a Montana Pioneer interviewer’s questions.

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Holiday sale to end soon

The latest edition of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook came out in August. Here’s a review of the previous edition:

“[A] magnificent catalogued resource to the full enjoyment of a huge national park and area known as Yellowstone. The author has extensive knowledge and experience in exploring the beauties of the area. . . . Altogether, Yellowstone Treasures fills an ongoing need for new generations of park explorers and appreciators. She has spent much of her life becoming better acquainted with the riches of the area and she is generously sharing her knowledge with this beautiful guidebook. It is not to be missed.”

—Nancy Lorraine, Midwest Book Review, May 2009
You can find more great comments on our Reviews and From Our Readers pages.

As we explained in our November 4 press release, the updated fourth edition boasts:

  • Color tabs to indicate the six sections of the park
  • A dozen new pictures
  • Fully revised maps that show recent road changes
  • Updated geological information to reflect current research on what’s under Yellowstone and how it works, along with new diagrams like the one excerpted below
  • A new glossary of geological and other scientific terms

Yellowstone Treasures fourth edition geological figure

Part of Figure 5. What’s under Yellowstone: Moving plates, mantle plumes, and the Yellowstone hot spot.

The comprehensive guidebook also comes as an e-book in EPUB, PDF, Nook, and Kindle formats.

To encourage sales during the time of the year when not so many people visit Yellowstone, we started a holiday sale in November. You can buy the guidebook for $19.96 plus shipping and handling, which is 20% off the list price. To get the 20% discount on the print book, be sure to type the promo code “Holidays” in the Voucher box of the shopping cart. But hurry, this coupon only lasts until midnight on January 20, 2014.

Best wishes,
Beth Chapple, Editor

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Traveling to Yellowstone in the winter

Silex Spring in winter

An island of rime-coated grass in Silex Spring’s runoff


For most of the winter, the West, East and South park entrances are closed to cars and trucks but open to skiers, snowshoers, snowcoaches, and snowmobiles. These winter activities are possible until early to mid March. Then most of the park is closed to everyone until various roads open between April 18 and 23. Call the Yellowstone National Park information office (307-344-2117) for current road information.

The one park road that is kept open all winter takes you from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance via Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt. See the Park Map.

Only two park lodgings are open in winter—the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Go to Xanterra’s Yellowstone site for more information and reservations.

Also, be sure to read Janet’s report about her Tauck tour of the park in 2012. The many photos give you an idea of what it is like this time of year.

Happy New Year!

Have a good journey,
Beth Chapple, Editor

Updated Jan. 2, 2014

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Heads-up about what’s under Yellowstone

Just to let you know: Yesterday Jake Lowenstern and colleagues at the USGS/Yellowstone Volcano Observatory issued a very clear and detailed explanation of just what the new research on the magma system shows and how it was obtained. To read it, you need to scroll down under the map on the YVO website:
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

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Yellowstone magma “Supervolcano” news

The magma system or reservoir under Yellowstone is 2.5 times larger than previously known

Recent articles including “supervolcano” in the headline in the blogosphere and in media such as the New York Post shout “We’re probably doomed” and tell us of “a volcano that could wipe out U.S.” That gets people’s attention! The whirl of media activity is all due to research presented at last week’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting in San Francisco.

An interesting session and a poster presented by Drs. Robert Smith and Jamie Farrell have stirred up a lot of emotional response, as has a November earthquake swarm in the area. The more these things are discussed in the media, the less rational readers seem to become. Media loves sensation. Perhaps the scientists whose work inspired the sensationalism will soon issue something to calm people down. Meanwhile, I’ll do what I can with this post.

I attended Smith’s 15-minute session at AGU and read Farrell’s poster last week. I am not a scientist, but I know enough about Yellowstone and current research to say this: The size of the magma reservoir below Yellowstone tells us nothing about when it will explode. Just as a reminder, magma is liquid or molten rock, including any dissolved gases or crystals, found deep within Earth.

More and more researchers are using various methods and instruments (seismometers, strainmeters, geochemical analyses, geodesy, instruments measuring electrical conductivity, and so on) to study what is under Yellowstone and its surroundings. Let’s wish them well and not panic about a catastrophe that is very unlikely to happen within the lifetime of anyone who can read this.

What about those earthquakes? One useful conclusion reached by this recent research is: “A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than a volcano eruption,” according to Farrell.

ON THE WEB: Here is some reliable and interesting information:
1. University of Utah’s Seismology and Active Tectonics Research Group’s faculty member Bob Smith stated on December 5th that U. of Utah’s seismographs will “continue to monitor Yellowstone earthquakes and will provide additional information if the earthquake swarm activity increases.”

2. U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Swarms of (usually small) earthquakes have been reported frequently over the years; they are detected by the USGS seismograph array in Yellowstone.

3. Phys.org’s article called “Study: Yellowstone magma much bigger than thought (Update).” A relevant quote serves to sum up my comments here: “For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt. Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn’t enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption. ‘We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don’t know when,’ he said.”

ON THIS WEBSITE: For more about the quest to understand what’s under Yellowstone, be sure to read the nuggets called “The Yellowstone Supervolcano,” “The Yellowstone Hot Spot: History of the Science“, and “The Yellowstone Hot Spot: Modern Science“.

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What to do on this website

lance-leaved stonecrop

Lance-leaved stonecrop

Besides finding out about the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook and learning of news in the Yellowstone area on Janet Chapple’s author blog, what else can you do on this website?

If you have kids, you can explore what it would be like to travel with them to the park in “Taking the family to Yellowstone Park” and “Itinerary for a family trip.” And now there’s another activity for kids: go to the new “Color a Wildflower” page to find coloring pages for the flowering plants and trees that grow in Yellowstone. In fact, one of the ones you can print out and color is the stonecrop, pictured above. If you want to be sure your pictures are botanically accurate, you can even use the coloring guide for each page, which shows you which color to use for each part. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the plants before you get there!

CREDITS: The photo is by Bruno Giletti.

Enjoy the website,
Beth Chapple, Editor

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Trip planning

One aspect many people wonder about when getting ready to travel to Yellowstone is how do people stay in touch? Cell phones have limited usefulness in Yellowstone, but relay towers are gradually being added throughout the park. The most reliable service can be found at Canyon, Grant, Mammoth, and Old Faithful. In 2013 a tower at Lake was announced as planned for the near future. Many geyser enthusiasts (“geyser gazers”) use FRS radios to keep in touch, especially in Upper Geyser Basin.

Are you wondering what the seasons are like in the park? We have just posted a table showing you what the weather will be like in each season, to help you decide when to go.

Many of the posts Janet has written on her blog over the years give you more tips to help you reserve lodging, decide on what to see, and plan when to go. She also lets you know about facilities that will be closing or opening for the season. A quick way to find these tips is to search for “trip planning” in the Category list in the right column of this blog.

Have a good journey,
Beth Chapple, Editor

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The Yellowstone grizzly bear’s chances for survival

The question of whether or not the grizzly bear should be removed from the Endangered Species List is still being studied. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will present its report December 11 in Missoula, MT. Grizzlies may not really be at risk, their report says, since the bears do not depend greatly on the now-relatively-scarce whitebark pine nuts for late-season food preparing them for hibernation, as many knowledgeable people have asserted. Instead, they are turning more to meat and foraging at lower elevations than previously. “A 75 percent reduction in whitebark numbers since 2002 isn’t cause for worry,” states the study’s report.

But other bear experts disagree that the grizzly population is out of danger. A retired bear biologist stated that three of the bears’ four main sources of food have declined recently: “We’ve got catastrophic loss of whitebark pine, catastrophic loss of cutthroat trout, and major declines in numbers of elk. [Only] army cutworm moths are hanging in there,” he told the Jackson (WY) News and Guide.

For my money, it looks like this bear population of Greater Yellowstone, which is variously stated as between 600 and 700-plus individuals, is not out of danger yet. The entire article by Mike Koshmrl is called “Pine Decline OK for Grizzly.”

No posts from me next week, since I’ll be attending the American Geophysical Union annual meeting to learn more about new research pertaining to Yellowstone.

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