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Research




The projects listed below are a random selection. Use criteria above to search by keyword, subject, feature, or region. Combining search criteria may provide few or no results.
Monitoring the recovery of Santa Fe's Buckman Water Well Field
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High-production municipal water well fields can depress water levels, cause land subsidence, and disturb subsurface aquifer temperatures. As an example, the City of Santa Fe’s Buckman well field located along the Rio Grande, was pumped at high rates from 1989 to 2003. This high-rate pumping led to a precipitous drop in water level (>100 m), caused measureable ground subsidence over a 25 km2 area (based on 1995-1997 InSAR [satellite-based] data), and created a land-surface fissure with 20 cm of vertical displacement. Pumping rates were reduced after 2003 and water levels have since risen ~120 m.

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Springs and Wetlands at La Cienega
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The bureau has been involved in a comprehensive study of the geohydrology of the wetlands in the vicinity of La Cienega, south of Santa Fe, since 2011. These springs and wetlands occur where local groundwater flows intersect the surface. They provide an important source of water for domestic and agricultural use as well as wildlife.

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Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau: Insights from cosmogenic exposure ages of young lava flows
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The Tibetan plateau is a product of the most dramatic tectonic event of recent geological history: the collision of the Indian sub-continent with Eurasia. In spite of the topographic and tectonic implications of the plateau, the mechanisms for its uplift remain controversial. The controversy is in large part a result of poorly constrained uplift history. Types of evidence that have been adduced for the uplift history include paleoecological date, cooling histories of plutonic and igneous rocks, and geomorphic interpretations. Some lines of evidence indicate relatively gradual uplift since the mid-Tertiary, while others support rapid acceleration of uplift during the latest Cenozoic, with the greatest portion during the Quaternary.

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Northeastern Tularosa Basin Regional Hydrogeology Study
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The population centers in Alamogordo, Carrizozo, La Luz, and numerous other small communities, are largely supported by groundwater resources. With few perennial streams in this closed basin, water is sparse. Fresh water resources are limited, and recharge to these areas originates within the high elevation watersheds in the Sacramento Mountains, as precipitation, stream and spring flow. This goal of this study was to improve understanding of the groundwater resources in this region by identifying recharge areas and quantities, determining groundwater flow rates and direction, and to interpret the groundwater/surface water interactions that exist in the region. Methods used in this effort included geologic mapping, groundwater level measurements, and geochemical analyses of the groundwater, springs and streams.

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Southern Sacramento Mountains Hydrogeology Study
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The goals of this study were to delineate areas of groundwater recharge, determine directions and rates of groundwater movement, and better understand the interactions between different aquifers and between the groundwater and surface water systems. Data collected from 2005 to 2009 include geologic mapping, frequent water level measurements in wells, single time and repeated well and spring sampling, precipitation measurement and sampling, fracture orientation measurements, and stream flow measurements.

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Tephra layers in Rio Grande Rift Sediments
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The Jemez Mountains volcanic field, in northwestern New Mexico, has been active for at least the past 16.5 million years, and has produced a large number of explosive and effusive volcanic eruptions during that time. Volcanic ash from the Jemez Mountains volcanic field provides a temporal record of the young eruptions from the caldera and many such deposits have been recognized in a number locations in New Mexico. The ash is present as thick deposits near the eruptive source, and as thinner deposits interbedded in ancestral Rio Grande river sediments at greater distances from the vent.

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Public-private investment in New Mexico’s water future

The hydrogeology studies group (known as the Aquifer Mapping Program), at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, received an important gift in 2016 from the Healy Foundation to benefit the New Mexico’s water and natural resources. The funds will be used to support two new water-focused, multi-year programs for the state.

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Ice layers in Antarctica hold secrets to the global climate past
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A team of scientists from the Bureau of Geology has spent many Antarctic summers sampling layers of volcanic ash trapped between layers of ice to learn about climate conditions that existed at the time of the ice deposition. While the volcanic ash can be dated to constrain the time of deposition, oxygen isotope signatures in the ice reveal clues about temperatures that existed as the layers were deposited.

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Cosmogenic dating of young basaltic lava flows
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Cosmogenic dating techniques have been successfully applied to dating of geomorphically-young surfaces, such as glacial moraines, beach terraces, and basaltic lava flows that have intact surface features, and hence have undergone little erosion (e.g. Phillips et al., 1997a and b; Phillips et al, in review, Dunbar and Phillips, 1996; Zreda et al., 1991, 1993; Zreda, 1994; Anthony and Poths, 1992, Laughlin et al., 1994). These techniques rely on measurement of cosmogenic nuclides that begin to build up as soon as a rock is exposed to cosmic rays. Therefore, cosmogenic techniques can be applied to dating of any surface that is composed of material that was not exposed to cosmic rays prior to formation of the surface, and has been exposed more-or-less continuously since. In the case of an extrusive volcanic rock, buildup of cosmogenic nuclides begins when the rock is erupted, so measurement of the ratio of a cosmogenic isotope to a non-cosmogenic isotope can provide an estimate of eruption age (Phillips et al., 1986).

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Helium Resources in New Mexico
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Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe but is rare on Earth. Helium has unique physical and chemical properties that render it indispensable to our modern technological society – it is requisite for the operation of MRI instruments and in the manufacture of computer chips and fiber optic cables. However, helium gas deposits are rare, and helium is typically a trace component of natural gases being emitted at the Earth’s surface. As established supplies have become stressed, the price of helium gas has increases from $18 per thousand ft3 to more than $200 per thousand ft3. Helium has been mined in New Mexico, and the location of helium resources has been mapped by Ron Broadhead, our principal senior petroleum geologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

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