Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Does a Geologist Do?

Geologists work to understand the history of our planet. The better they can understand Earth’s history the better they can foresee how events and processes of the past might influence the future. Here are two examples:

Volcanic Mudflow Hazard Map by USGS
1) The processes acting upon the Earth cause hazards such as landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Geologists are working to understand these processes well enough to avoid building important structures where they will be damaged. If geologists learn a lot about volcanic mudflows of the past then that information can be very useful in predicting the dangerous areas where volcanic mudflows might strike in the future. The map at right shows areas that are thought to be at risk from future mudflows around Mount Rainier. Intelligent people should be cautions when considering activities or property development in these areas. (Click on the map to see greater detail.)

2) Geologists have worked hard to learn that oil and natural gas form from organic materials deposited along the margins of continents and in shallow seas upon the continents. They have also learned to recognize the types of rock that are deposited in these near-shore environments. This knowledge enables them to recoginze potential oil and natural gas source rocks. In the photo below oil field workers are placing a tool into an oil exploration well. This tool will be lowered down the hole and will record tiny amounts of radioactivity released from the rocks below (rocks rich in organic materials frequently contain tiny amounts of radioactive materials). The information obtained from the tool will help them assess the oil and natural gas production potential of the rocks below. If they do these tests at many locations within a region they might be able to map an oil or natural gas field.

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