Tag Archive for: geologic







Among the more commonly asked questions we receive at the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) are those dealing with the correct names of Utah’s geographic features.

Perhaps the best tool for answering these questions is a searchable database established and maintained by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This database, called the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), is available online at geonames.usgs. gov.

Following the American Civil War, a surge of exploration, mining, and settlement of western territories created many inconsistencies and contradictions in geographic names, which became a serious problem for surveyors, map makers, and scientists.

To address this problem, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order that created the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 1890 (the current form of the board was established by a 1947 law). Technology, such as geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and the Internet increases the need for standardized data on geographic names, but it also makes accessing that data quick and easy through the GNIS.


Digging in the dirt does not sound like a glamorous job, but it caught the attention of the cable television network’s Discovery Channel.  The show, DIRTY JOBS recently went on a dinosaur dig with some paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey (UGS).  The show is set to air on Tuesday, December 20.

According to the show’s website:  “DIRTY JOBS profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways. Our brave host and apprentice Mike Rowe introduces you to a hardworking group of men and women who overcome fear, danger and sometimes stench and overall ickiness to accomplish their daily tasks.”

State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland and UGS paleontologist Don DeBlieux traveled with the cast and crew of the show to an undisclosed location in eastern Utah for the one day shoot to look for and dig dinosaur bones out of the side of a steep hill.  “We picked that site because it is such a spectacular location, but it is a difficult location and one which requires lots of hard and strenuous work,” says DeBlieux.

In fact, the weather was very uncooperative as they were driving to the site.  “It rained for a couple of hours in the morning and we were afraid that we weren’t going to be able to film, and they only had one day to shoot.  But luckily, the skies cleared and it turned out to be a nice day.”  The show points out that you have to have patience, strength and a love of playing in the dirt in order to be a paleontologist.

“We are excited to see the show because we have only seen the trailers,” said DeBlieux.  “But based on the trailers, it should be pretty amusing!”

Some of the episode’s trailers can be seen at: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/dirty-jobs-sneak-peek/

The Utah Geological Survey provides timely scientific information about Utah’s geologic environment, resources, and hazards.


Heads up, map geeks! (We know you’re out there.)

The Utah Geological Survey has released a full-color geological map of unprecedented detail of 1,800 square miles of the central Wasatch, which includes wilderness areas and public lands along with human-infested areas, including Heber and Payson.




The Utah Geological Survey has released its 2012 Calendar of Utah Geology. Of the more than 300 photos that were submitted, 33 were selected for the 2012 calendar.




The recent rains have caused more than a fear of flooding, as canyon hillsides are threatening to collapse and roads are being covered with mud.

“We’ve had this continuous rainfall that really started back in October,” said Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City Public Utilities director. “It has just rained and rained and there’s no place for the water to go.”

The hillside at the mouth of City Creek Canyon, he said, has been sliding under increased water pressure since 1937, but has already moved 8 feet this spring with all the recent moisture.

“It starts to saturate the upper surface of the groundwater and what that does is basically relieve the inner pressure between the soil particles and creates the potential for landslides,” Niermeyer said.

Excess water sent an estimated 200,000 tons of rocks and mud onto state Route 39 Thursday evening, damaging at least two cars and closing the road on the southern shores of Pineview Reservoir for most of the day. Utah Department of Transportation engineer Brent DeYoung said the hillside had been stabilized, but more rain could change that.



Santaquin Canyon was closed Saturday after a rockslide filled the roadway, blocking 17 motorists for a time.

The canyon will remain closed until the current storm system blows over, allowing crews to clean up the slide, said Sgt. Eldon Packer of the Utah County Sheriff Office. They are expecting to start the cleanup on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The slide occurred just below the Tinney Flat Campground around 2 p.m., Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. No one was injured and only one vehicle sustained some minor damage.

“It did cover the whole road,” he said. “It was about 100 yards wide and three feet deep in places. There were a lot of trees and rocks, mud and water with it.”

Cannon said the debris was solid enough that officials were able to get all of the vehicles past the obstruction before clearing the roadway.

“The problem is, it fills back into place,” he said. “We’re figuring out how much material is going to come down and how long it will take to get it out of the way.”




Weekend slides forced the closure of at least three canyon roads over the weekend and emergency officials are bracing for more moving debris because of steady rain predicted Monday.

Rocks tumbled down the hillside Sunday in Davis County’s Farmington Canyon, forcing the area to be shut down for at least 48 hours. This latest slide followed one up Santaquin Canyon and in Beaver Canyon, both closing roads until further notice.

In Beaver Canyon, two brothers on their way to a favorite fishing spot at 12:30 p.m. Sunday became unwitting witnesses to the aftermath of a tremendous amount of mud and debris that fell onto state Route 153.

The brothers, Shilo Joseph and James Joseph, captured the event on videotape using their cell phones.

“Approximately eight miles up the canyon, we were captivated to see the road covered in rocks, roots, branches, and mud. The destructive nature of the mud slide bathed the road in a natural mass of muck,” Shilo Joseph said. “A boulder approximately the size of a wreaking ball was set directly in the center of the river along with a newly formed dam from the debris.”

In Davis County, the sheriff’s office reported the Farmington Canyon road closed for 48 hours due the instability of the hillsides. Rocks covered the road at the first switchback, but no injuries were reported in the 4:10 p.m. slide., despite an emergency services manager and a deputy being on scene when the rocks came down.




A fossil from an extinct relative of the rhinoceros, Telataceras, set the record for highest vertebrate fossil found in Utah.

A jawbone with three molars was found 10,000 feet up Thousand Lake Mountain in Wayne County, Utah. Geologists from the Utah Geological Survey found the fossil while mapping rock layers in the mountain in 2005.

On another expedition in 2006, the geologists found a portion of the skull of another extinct mammal, a brontothere known as Duchesneodus uintensis. The fossils were embedded in sand and gravel that were likely laid down by a river.

Finding the two fossils in the same sediment layer suggested to the scientists that they are around 42 to 37 million years old, from a period known as the Duchesnean Land Mammal Age, during the Eocene Age.

The researchers, led by Donald Deblieux of the Utah Geological Survey, believe that certain features of the brontothere fossil may mean it is a new species.




Water and weather experts are fairly certain that five to seven consecutive days of high temperatures will bring widespread flooding. Less predictable, however, are mudslides and debris flows that can swallow roadways and structures with little warning.

The spate of landslides reported since Saturday after heavy rains in northern Utah is an unsettling reminder that flood season in the mountains is precarious in more ways than one. And with each passing day, the time frame for melting record amounts of snow at high elevations becomes more compressed.

If temperatures suddenly rose to normal — or above normal — creeks and rivers in much of Utah would jump their banks, according to Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

That most likely would lead to more mudslides, too, said Rich Giraud, senior geologist with the Utah Geological Survey.

The average high temperature for valley locations in northern Utah during the first week of June is 82 degrees. But the forecast for the next five to seven days calls for relatively cool temperatures, according to the weather service, with highs ranging from 60 degrees to the mid-70s. Rain showers Tuesday should give way to partly cloudy skies for the remainder of the week.

A string of days with average to high temperatures could result in a quick melt that would continue to soak and destabilize already saturated soils, particularly on steep slopes, Giraud said.

“You really can’t forecast landslides. In terms of timing, we can’t do that,” he said. “But when we have above-normal precipitation and a lot of snowmelt, the potential increases. If it warms up, we may start to see a lot of landslides.”

Davis County, with its steep canyons, has had a history of mudslides and debris flows, including a number in 1983, a year remembered for widespread flooding, Giraud said.



For most of human history we’ve been consuming resources at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate.

Unfortunately we have crossed a critical threshold. The demand we are now placing on our planets resources appears to have begun to outpace the rate at which nature can replenish them.

The gap between human demand and supply is known as ecological overshoot. To better understand the concept think of your bank account – in it you have $5000.00 paying monthly interest. Month after month you take the interest plus $100. That $100 is your financial, or for our purposes, your ecological overshoot and its withdrawal is obviously unsustainable.

“One lesson from the five great global extinctions is that species and ecosystems come and go, but the evolutionary process continues. In short, life forms have a future on Earth, but humankind’s future depends on its stewardship of ecosystems that favor Homo Sapiens.” John Cairns, Jr., Future of Life on Earth