Colorful sunsets and powerful volcanoes — the link between geology and weather

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Our beautiful sunrises and sunsets are not a figment of your imagination — there is something a little extra in the atmosphere these days.

Volcanic ash from eruptions this summer half a world away have filled the Stratosphere with colorful aerosols, and have traveled around the planet right into our own backyard.

Our world is becoming increasingly globalized, and likewise scientific fields have become increasingly important in understanding our shifting planet. What happens across the globe can now have a direct effect on the way someone in South Dakota lives their life. Sometimes it’s pretty sunsets, other times it can be a little more serious.

“We’re seeing some strange colored sunsets in this part of the world,” said Dr. Timothy Masterlark, geologist at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. “So in essence it’s interesting but if the volcanic eruptions are big enough they can cause major disasters.”

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology makes it a point to teach geology as a global concept for this reason. If some volcano erupts on some remote island in the ocean, or a tsunami strikes another far away country, why would that affect us?

“Because we live in a global economy with global communications and communities, a big problem for one area is going to have a ripple effect around the world.“

Geology isn’t just studying rocks – it’s understanding the minerals we use to function as a society and how to efficiently harvest these resources in a sustainable way. The cars you drive, the pavement you drive on, the buildings that keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  In fact, geology and meteorology are inexplicably intertwined. Just think back to the year without a summer.

The study of science is shifting from having your head stuck in a book, to communicating with volcanologists in Papa New Guinea. We live in an exciting age of discovery, think about it – the next time you see a sunrise with purple streaks across the sky – you’ll know its from a spectacular eruption a world away.

Categories: Local News, National News

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