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Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA‑UAB)

MdM Keynote Speaker Series 2023: "Sliding, not Rolling Stones: Rock trails on a dry lake in in Death Valley and other places"

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We are pleased to announce that Prof. Richard D. Norris, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California San Diego, will be giving two keynotes at ICTA-UAB in June.  You can also follow the seminar online by using the zoom link below. 


MdM Keynote Speaker Series 2023 - June 

Seminar: "Sliding, not Rolling Stones: Rock trails on a dry lake in in Death Valley and other places"

Speaker:Richard D. Norris,Scripps Institution of Oceanography - University of California San Diego (US)

Date: Thursday, 1st of June 2023  
Time: from 12:00 to 13:00 

Venue: room Z/023 & Online: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/88422439890?pwd=RUtMeVpFeEtKSDlHUmN6WTR6T0ZsQT09 



Richard Norris is a professor of paleobiology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the evolution of life in the oceans, with particular emphasis on the mechanisms of extinction and speciation of plankton and the processes of assembly of marine ecosystems. He has used ecological, genetic, and biogeographic studies of living plankton and pelagic fish as well as the extensive fossil record of marine plankton and fish preserved in deep sea sediments. 

Mysteriously, rocks as large as a small refrigerator move 100's of meters by themselves over the surface of a nearly flat dry lake called Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. Explanations include supernatural forces--giant magnets & aliens (of course!) as well as powerful winds, earthquakes or floating ice. The "moving rock" phenomenon has also been described from other dry lakes in the American West, Spain, South Africa and even Sudan.  Here we describe observations of rocks in motion on Racetrack Playa using both GPS and weather station data as well as direct observations.   

We find that wind stress acting on floating ice is the primary motive force.  Light winds push a sheet of ice only a few millimeters thick that floats on an extensive, but very shallow pond.  The ice panel can be up to a kilometer square and as it moves it can readily push rocks that stick up through the ice-covered pond surface.  In Spain, similar trails form on the Laguna del Altillo Chica south of Madrid, but there strong winds have been implicated in rock movement. The "moving rock" phenomenon also includes still unknown mechanisms such as the processes that form "rockless trails" [where there are trails but no rocks] in Death Valley and Spain.