Quandary answers age-old question: Was Buffalo Mountain a volcano? | SummitDaily.com

Quandary answers age-old question: Was Buffalo Mountain a volcano?

QUESTION 1

I've been looking at Buffalo Mountain for two seasons now with the feeling that it fits the classic geological formation of a once-active volcano. Everyone I've talked to claims that it isn't, but as none of them are geologists I am unconvinced.

Can you possibly put this quandary to rest once and for all for me?

Thanks,

Aram

I hear you, Aram, people can be highly unreliable; it's much better to go for the goat. Luckily, Quandary happens to know a local geologist and Summit County historian who can help put this debate to rest for you. As Dr. Sandie Mather explained, Buffalo is not a volcano, dormant, dead or of any other variety. While quite a bit of Mather's response went straight over this old goat's head, let me sum up the basics for you.

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Stratovolcanoes — the classic, cone-shaped volcanoes you're referring to — were shaped by erupted lava that created lava flows. Unfortunately, there are no signs of lava flows on Buffalo. If it were a volcano, you'd be able to see these flows on the surface, and maybe some fossilized friends who didn't heed an ashy warning. Alas, it appears that type of terror evaded our humble valley.

Instead the volcano-like crater on Buffalo was created by glacial activity. This was a little bit before the time of Quandary even, but a glacial cirque develops because of the movement of ice that scrapes the mountain and leaves a distinctive erosion pattern. If you look around today you can see pockets where the snow and ice tend to gather. Imagine this on the larger scale, and taking place over thousands of years. The result of the freeze and thaw process creates a crater where the ice gets trapped, and eventually pushes its way through, creating the lips of a crater. Mather explained that this process happened twice on Buffalo and resulted in two craters that give Buffalo that unique volcano-mimicking look.

Have no fear, though; along with ice, "fire" did play a role in forming our mountains. You see, when molten magma flows under the surface of rock it can create igneous intrusions as it fills in the cracks between existing rock; these intrusions are visible throughout the Tenmile Canyon.

Summit's two most prominent mountain ranges are made of metamorphic and igneous rock. Again, both types are even more ancient than this hostile old goat. Granite is a type of igneous rock and it combined with the previously mentioned igneous intrusions to give Buffalo its domed look.

Basically, the fact that lava only flowed below the surface (or intrusively, if you'd prefer another geology term) means that Buffalo is not a volcano. Still pretty cool, though, to think how such opposite forces worked to create a massive and identifiable mountain.

QUESTION 2

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is what occurs when you've spent too much time clutching that frosty brew. Or at least maybe it could? Really, frostbite is when body tissue freezes. When this occurs you have lessened blood flow to the affected area and the tissue can start to die off.

You lose normal feeling and the area starts to degress to a black color.

There are varying levels of frostbite ranging from frostnip to deep frostbite. Take all levels seriously as it doesn't take very long to go from, "Meh, I'm all right" to, "Holy crap, that's not my hand, is it?"

Limbs, ears and nose often are the first to be affected because they generally have less blood flow to start with.

If you find yourself with a less-than-stellar-looking limb, there are some steps you can take at home. However, do not take any measures to warm up the area until you are sure you can keep it warm. Warming up your body and then exposing it to the cold again can actually cause a lot more damage than just keeping it frosty until you can permanently heat up.

Once you've found your way inside, put the frostbitten feature in warm water. Don't use hot water because you won't be able to judge the temperature and could easily burn yourself.

If you can't get warm water, cup your hands and breathe on it (very entertaining and sometimes tricky for your feet), or tuck it into your jacket to use the rest of your body heat to warm up.

Once you've stabilized enough it is still important to seek medical attention. This old goat consulted WebMD for some information, but you probably shouldn't as it will scare the heck out of you.