Archive for February, 2010

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Tracking the Flood

February 24, 2010

This is from an article in the Oregonian about the path of the Missoula Floods.  Read on and learn more about why we’ve been so fascinated by these floods:

Play by play of the flow action of the Missoula Floods

Geologists find a way to simulate the great Missoula floods

By Joe Rojas-Burke, The Oregonian

February 20, 2010, 8:00PM

View full sizeEric Baker/The OregonianAn hour-by-hour simulation of the Missoula floods.Floodwaters rise more than 1,000 feet as they slam into the Columbia River Gorge from the east. The torrent blasts through the narrows at 60 mph, carrying truck-size boulders and house-size icebergs. Reaching Portland, water loaded with gravel and dirt roils to a depth of 400 feet, leaving tiny islands at the summits of Mount Tabor and Rocky Butte.

Geologists have spent decades piecing together evidence to tell the story of the great Missoula floods that reshaped much of Oregon and Washington between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Now scientists have found a way to travel back in time to watch the megafloods unfold, in a virtual bird’s eye view. Their computer simulation displays the likely timing and play-by-play action, starting with the collapse of an ice dam and outpouring of a lake 200 miles across and 2,100 feet deep.

The computer model, developed by Roger Denlinger with the U.S. Geological Survey in Vancouver and Colorado-based geophysicist Daniel O’Connell, is filling gaps in scientific explanations of the floods and the baffling landforms they left, including the fabled Channeled Scablands — scars hundreds of miles long cut into the bedrock of eastern Washington and visible from outer space. The simulations also may help settle a lingering scientific controversy about what caused the repeating ice-age catastrophes.

“It’s just really powerful visualization that gives a sense of the scale of the floods, how they came down through the channel system and backed up the big tributary valleys,” said Jim O’Connor, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Portland who has written extensively on the Missoula floods. He said the modeling work provides the first “really good information” on the timing of events.

During the last ice age, a continent-spanning ice sheet built from massively expanded glaciers descended from the Canadian Rocky Mountains to reach deep into Washington, Idaho and Montana. Glacial Lake Missoula formed behind a miles-long dam of ice across what is now the valley of the Clark Fork and Pend Oreille rivers running from Montana to northeast Washington. The dam formed and collapsed dozens of times over a span of three thousand years.

In the simulation of one of the largest possible floods, raging water quickly overwhelms the hills near Spokane and races overland to the south and west. The intense, overland flows carve the miles-long scars of the scablands between Spokane and Pasco, Wash.

Thirty-eight hours later, swirling, mud-darkened waters converge at the narrowing of the Columbia at Wallula Gap, where the backed-up flow rises 850 feet above river level (1,150 feet above sea level). An immense volume of water blasts through the narrows at fire-hose velocity. Flow exceeds 1.3 billion gallons per second — a thousand times greater than the Columbia’s average flows today.

Lake Missoula’s water, all 550 cubic miles of it, drains in 55 hours — less than three days — according to the model. At that time, the flood surge peaks in the Columbia Gorge at The Dalles, rising 950 feet above river level (1,000 feet above sea level), spilling over the gorge walls in places, and flooding the valleys of tributaries for miles upstream.

Inundation of the Willamette Valley peaks on the seventh day after dam burst, in the simulation. Flooding reaches as far south as Eugene. Loaded with mud and gravel, the flood dumps sediment across the entire valley. Repeated floods build a layer 100 feet thick in Woodburn.

Such a vast inundation, far greater than anything ever witnessed in historical time, seemed impossible to geologists in the 1920s, when J Harlen Bretz proposed that the scablands resulted from a catastrophic flood, not eons of gradual erosion. The idea didn’t gain mainstream acceptance until the 1960s. Since then, geologists have found evidence that Lake Missoula emptied catastrophically dozens of times during the last ice age.

But controversy persists. A few scientists assert that the cataclysmic floods must have had multiple sources, not just an outburst from Lake Missoula. John Shaw of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, for instance, has proposed that an enormous reservoir beneath the ice sheet over much of central British Columbia boosted the flooding.

The new simulation suggests that discharge from Lake Missoula alone would have been powerful enough. The simulated flood reaches peak stages all along its route that match the evidence visible today in sediment, with one big exception: At Wallula Gap, water levels in the simulation fell short by as much as 130 feet.

“It’s pretty clear, if Lake Missoula is enough to hit all the other high water marks, you don’t need another source of water,” Denlinger said. Calculating the convoluted paths of such a massive flood requires an immense amount of number crunching. Simulating one flood requires more than 8 months of computer time, Denlinger said.

But the computer simulation isn’t likely to end the debate. The fact that it can’t reproduce the maximum flooding at Wallula Gap leaves room for doubts. And some experts say there is direct evidence for an additional source of flood waters from beneath the ice sheet that covered the Okanagan Valley.

“It is conceivable that other valleys in southern British Columbia contributed water to the scablands but the field evidence necessary to test these possibilities has not been fully documented,” said earth scientist Jerome-Etienne Lesemann at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

“There are a number of unanswered questions,” he said. “That makes the whole Channeled Scablands story a really interesting and intriguing geological puzzle.”

— Joe Rojas-Burke

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Rolling Along

February 23, 2010

We have some good news folks! But we’re not at liberty to share it all at the moment. So, we’ll just take the joy and put it away until everything is finalized.

All good new aside, we here at Craigmore Creations are in the final push to finish the color draft of Terra Tempo. The photo is part Erica working on the color and part Red Room, our study room at Craigmore Creations, where I’m working on the next story. Off Camera is Michelle, who is our intern, busily working on the color of the book as well.

It’s funny how camera shy the Craigmore Creations team is, seeing as they are all quite photogenic people.

I’m really thankful for our intern, Michelle. It’s mighty kind of her to volunteer her time to help us move along on the project. She is saving Erica many hours of work in the process of coloring and has been fun to have around the office as well.

Chris is finishing the final pages of ink. He’s working hard at times and hardly working at others…but his hard work makes up for the rest and he’s well ahead of schedule to complete the first book.

I’m writing the second book. This time around, I’m a lot better versed in “Keynote” and I have been laying the foundation for the story frame by frame with many, many pictures from the research inserted into the text to allow an easy flow from the words to the frames of the next graphic novel.

Last week we found out Spielberg may produce a prime time television show called “Terra Nova” about a time traveling family from the future that goes back in time to live amongst the Jurassic period. Seeing as our book is called “Terra Tempo”, I felt a twinge of panic, which has since allayed into a general feeling of encouragement. Dinosaurs will be “in” once again! That fact will only serve to move our next story along the river of popular culture.

Stay tuned, there is always more to come

–David

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Back to Work

February 16, 2010

Work!  There’s been a whole bunch of that going on around here.  I was off in San Francisco at the San Francisco Writers Conference talking to agents, meeting other writers, and honing the craft.  Chris and Erica stayed back and were cooking in the art department. We’re cruising along on the completion of this project and we keep tinkering around with the name.  For now, it is Terra Tempo, Book one: Ice Age Cataclysm.

What a whirlwind of time!  I can not believe a year has gone by since Chris was hired on to the project.  Time certainly flies when your having fun…or if you are preparing for Chinese New Year and you have to cut up the noodles:  Time flies when you are halving fun.

The time is drawing near when we can say we are done with the full ink, full color draft of the book.  There are many exciting developments occurring  right now but I’m going to hold off on talking about them until everything solidifies.

Stay tuned,

David