Earth Notes

The Colorado Plateau is one of North America’s human and environmental treasures. Ancient cultures have called this land of sun-baked deserts and lush mountain landscapes home for centuries. Earth Notes, KNAU’s weekly environmental series, explores the Plateau by telling stories of the intricate relationships between environmental issues and our daily lives.

Rooted in science and wrapped in human interest, the two minute long segments encourage listeners to think of themselves as part of the solution to environmental problems. Upbeat and informative, the program tries to foster hope and dampen despair about the environment, and motivate listeners to become more conscious and informed stewards of the Colorado Plateau.

nps.gov

Blowholes are commonly associated with ocean coastlines, but they exist in the desert too. One of the most well-known of these is at Wupatki Pueblo near Flagstaff.

Blowholes are essentially small openings in the earth where air blows out or gets sucked in, acting as a natural fan of sorts. Researchers in northern Arizona believe the Wupatki blowhole is connected to an extensive underground system of fractures.

It measures a few inches across and has been enclosed in a masonry box so visitors can lean over for a blast of cold air on a hot summer day.

Cline Library, NAU.PH.85.3.14.174

The city of Flagstaff recently changed the name of a downtown street from that of Louis Agassiz, a 19th century scientist and racist, to Wilson C. Riles, the first Black student to enroll in the Arizona State Teachers College, which would eventually become Northern Arizona University.

Ben Kligman, Petrified National Forest

We usually imagine the Triassic as a primeval time of dinosaurs and other giants. But that’s because the bones they left behind are big and easy to find. Not much is known about smaller creatures that roamed what is now the Colorado Plateau, back when it was a tropical forest more than 200 million years ago.

Earth Notes: Melting Ice Caves

Jan 13, 2021
Bogdan Onac

An ice-filled lava tube in western New Mexico may have meant survival for Ancestral Puebloans almost two thousand years ago.

Early residents were living and farming in the area, and traveling along the well-established Zuni-Acoma Trail across the rough basalt of the “bad lands.”  But in very dry times, they turned to cave ice as a water source, according to geoscientists.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

A series of rubbled hills runs alongside Highway 89 about thirty miles north of Flagstaff. They look fairly unremarkable, but really, they’re remnants of mines that once produced pozzolan.

Pozzolans are a class of silica- and aluminum-rich materials commonly derived from explosive volcanic deposits. The early Romans knew of their value, incorporating them into aqueducts and buildings. The word pozzolan comes from a town in Italy.   

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