AQUIFER--A geologic formation (or one or more geologic formations) that is porous enough and permeable enough to transmit water at a rate sufficient to feed a spring or a well. An aquifer transmits more water than an aquitard. Sandstone beds and the Ogallala Formation are some of the best water-producing layers in Kansas and are used extensively for private and municipal water supplies.
AQUITARD--A part of a geologic formation (or one or more geologic formations) that is of much lower permeability than an aquifer and will not transmit water at a rate sufficient to feed a spring or for economic extraction by a well.
ARTESIAN AQUIFER--An aquifer in which ground water is confined under pressur significantly greater than atmospheric pressure. This pressure, called artesian pressure, is generally due to the weight of water at higher levels in teh same zone and is sufficient to cause water to rise above the level of the aquifer in a well or natural fissure. An artesian aquifer is bounded above and below by confininf beds of less permeable rock. Synonym: confined aquifer.
ATMOSPHERE--(1) The gaseous portion of the planet. (2) Standard unit of pressure representing the pressure exerted by a 29.92-inches (760-mm) column of mercury at sea level at 45 degrees latitude and equal to 14.696 pounds per square inch (psi) or 101.325 kilopascals (An).
AVAILABLE MOISTURE (OR MOISTURE)--Portion of water in a soil that can be absorbed by plant roots. It is the amount of water released from a wet soil between field capacity and the permanent wilting percentage.
BASE MAP--A map that shows only essential geolgraphic references (such as roads, towns, section lines, etc.) on which additional information is plotted: for example, a topographic map on which geologic information is recorded.
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (BIODIVERSITY)--Variety of living organisms at all levels, from genes to species, populations and communities, including the variety and hierarchy of habitats and ecosystems that contain different biological communities.
BIOME--Large, easily recognized community unit formed by the interaction of regional climates with regional biota and substrates. Examples include the tundra biome, the grassland biome, the desert biome, etc.
BIOSPHERE--Portion of earth and its atmosphere that can support life. The part (reservoir) of the global carbon cycle that includes living organisms (plants and animals) and life-derived organic matter (litter, detritus). The terrestrial biosphere includes the living biota (plants and animals) and the litter and soil organic matter on land, and the marine biosphere includes the biota and detritus in the oceans.
BRECCIA--Profusely cracked, broken rock cemented by calcite or other minerals. In the Tri-State mining district, which includes southeastern Kansas, breccia consisting of chert and limestone is often found with deposits of lead and zinc ore.
BRINE--Highly salty water, commonly with more than 10,000 milligrams per liter of chloride. In parts of Kansas, ground water may be naturally salty. Brine also is regularly produced along with oil in Kansas.
CARBONATE--A class of minerals. Calcite is calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Dolomite is calcium-magnesium carbonate [CaMg(CO3)2]. Calcite is a main constituent of many Kansas limestones. The mineral dolomite, less common, is the principal mineral in the rock dolomite, also sometimes referred to as a dolostone.
CAVE PEARL--Aspeleothem consisting of concentric layers of calcite usually formed in pools of water. A small particle, as it is turned by moving water, will have calcite deposited on its surface. Pearls range in diameter from 1 millimeter to several centimeters.
CARRYING CAPACITY--(1) The maximum number of organisms that an area or habitat can support without reducing its ability to support the same number of organisms in the future; (2) the amount of biological matter the system can yield, for consumption by animals or humans, over a given period of time without impairing its ability to continue producing, or the number of animals it can support without being degraded; (3) the maximum population of a given species that can be supported indefinitely, in a particular region, allowing for seasonal and random changes, without any degradation of the natural resource base that would diminish the maximum population in the future; (4) the maximum intensity of use an area will continuously support under a management program without inducing a permanent change in the biotic environment.
CHERT--Commonly called flint, this is a fine-grained, noncrystalline sedimentary rock made up of silicon dioxide (SiO2). Chert layers are commonly found in eastern Kansas, occurring as irregular beds or rounded nodules within limestone formations. Chert is harder than limestone and is thus more resistant to erosion. The chert-topped hills in the Flint Hills resulted from this differential erosion of the landscape. Chert has the same chemical formula as the mineral quartz.
CLIMATE CHANGE--Long-term fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, wind, and all other aspects of the earth's climate. External processes, such as solar-irradiance variations, variations of the earth's orbital parameters (eccentricity, precession, and inclination), lithosphere motions, and volcanic activity, are factors in climatic variation. Internal variations of the climate system also produce fluctuations of sufficient magnitude and variability to explain observed climate change through the feedback processes interrelating the components of the climate system.
CONCRETION--A hard, compact mass of mineral material formed when minerals in water are deposited about a nucleus (such as a leaf or shell or other particle) forming a rounded mass whose composition or cement is usually different form the surrounding rock.
CONTACT--A plane or surface between two different types, or ages, or rock. The contact is sometimes marked by a bedding plane, and sometimes caves are eroded or dissolved out of the rock at a contact. Caves formed in this manner are known as contact caves.
CRETACEOUS PERIOD--The interval of geologic time between 142 and 65 million years ago. It is named after the Latin word for chalk ("creta") because of the English chalk beds of this age. The well-known chalk of Kansas was deposited late in the Cretaceous, about 60 million years ago. The Dakota Formation is another famous Cretaceous deposit in Kansas, frequently called the Dakota sandstone because the most prominent beds--those that cap the hills and stand out as cliff formers--are sandstones.
CROSSBEDDING--A series of thin, inclined layers in a larger body of rock (usually sandstone) that form a distinct angle to the principal horizontal bedding plane. Formed by currents of water or wind, crossbedding is found in dune, stream channel, or delta deposits.
CUBIC FOOT PER SECOND (cfs)--Rate of discharge representing a volume of one cubic foot (28.317 x 10-3 m3) passing a given point during 1 second. This rate is equivalent to approximately 7.48 gallons (0.0283 m3) per second.
CUESTA--A hill with a steep slope on one side and a gentle slope on the other. Such topography characterizes part of eastern Kansas, which is called the Osage Cuestas. Cuesta is the Spanish word for cliff.
DESERTIFICATION--Progressive destruction or degradation of vegetation cover especially in arid and semiarid regions bordering existing deserts. Overgrazing of rangelands, large-scale cutting of forests and woodlands, drought, and burning of extensive areas all serve to destroy or degrade the land cover. The climatic impacts of this destruction include increased albedo leading to decreased precipitation, which in turn leads to less vegetation cover; increased atmospheric dust loading could lead to decreased monsoon rainfall and greater wind erosion and/or atmospheric pollution.
DOLOMITE--The mineral dolomite [CaMg(CO3)2] is similar to calcite (CaCO3) and is the principal mineral in the rock dolomite, also called dolostone. The rock dolomite is cavernous in some states but is so rare and so thin in Kansas that no caves have been found in it.
DRAINAGE AREA--Of a stream at a specified location is that area, measured in a horizontal plane, enclosed by a topographic divide from which direct surface runoff from precipitation normally drains by gravity into the stream above the specified location.
DRAINAGE BASIN--Hydrologic unit consisting of a part of the surface of the earth covered by a drainage system made up of a surface stream or body of impounded surface water plus all tributaries. The runoff in a drainage basin is distinct from that of adjacent areas. A river basin is similarly defined.
DRAWDOWN--Lowering of the ground-water surface or the piezometric pressure caused by pumping, measured as the difference between the original ground-water level and the current pumping level after a period of pumping.
DRIPSTONE--Secondary mineralization in caves formed by dripping water, as opposed to flowing water (see flowstone). Dripstone includes stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and columns (columns can also involve flowing water).
DROUGHT--(1) interval of time, generally of the order of months or years in duration, during which the actual moisture supply at a given place rather consistently falls short of the climatically expected or climatically appropriate moisture supply (meteorological drought); (2) a condition that occurs only when available soil moisture is inadequate to meet evaporative demand by plants (agricultural drought); (3) a period of below-normal streamflow (hydrological drought).
EL NIÑO--Irregular changes in the ocean currents off the west coast of South America that result in prolonged increases in sea-surface temperatures along the coast of Peru and in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño has been linked to distant atmospheric features having diverse effects, such as the Indian monsoon, shrimp production in Louisiana, and wildland fires in the United States.
EROSION--The wearing away, breaking down, or dissolving of rock and other material by wind or water. The eroded material is often carried off and deposited in other areas. Types of erosion include solution, corrosion, and abrasion. Most limestone and gypsum caves are formed mainly by solution. Shelter caves and many sandstone caves are formed by abrasion.
EVAPORITE--A sedimentary rock made up mostly of minerals deposited when a saline solution (such as seawater) evaporates. Gypsum, salt, and anhydrite are evaporites left behind when ancient Kansas seas dried up.
EVOLUTION--(a)The change of a group of related organisms toward adaptation to the environmental conditions to which they have been exposed with the passage of time. (b) The theory that life on Earth has developed gradually, from one or a few simple organisms to more complex organisms.
FAULT--A fracture or break in underground rock usually resulting from tectonic stresses along which one or both sides move. Movement along faults may produce earthquakes; most faults are relatively minor with movement involving only a few feet.
FORAMINIFER--Any protozoan belonging to the subclass Sarcodina, order Foraminifera, characterized by the presence of a test of one to many chambers made up of secreted calcite (rarely silica or aragonite) or of agglutinated particles.
FORMATION--A body of rock identified by physical characteristics and stratigraphic position and mappable at the earth's surface or traceable in the subsurface. The formation is the fundamental unit in lithostratigraphic classification. Formations can be subdivided into members or lumped together into groups.
FOSSILIFEROUS--Describing a rock in which fossils are profuse. Many of Kansas limestones are studied for such fossils as crinoids, brachiopods, and other marine invertebrates. In the chalk beds of western Kansas, large fossils of reptiles and fish of the Cretaceous Period are found.
GENERAL CIRCULATION MODELS (GCMs)--Large-scale computer models used to predict the response of the climate system to a carbon dioxide (CO2) increase or other stresses. Generally, the atmosphere, land, and oceans are divided into a number of discrete layers, with each layer consisting of a two-dimensional grid of thousands of points. The model then solves equations for the transport of heat, momentum, moisture (in the atmosphere and land), and salinity (in the ocean) on this three-dimensional grid. The typical resolution is 4° latitude by 5° longitude.
GLACIAL DRIFT--Sediment and rocks transported by glaciers and deposited directly on the land or indirectly in streams, lakes, and oceans. It consists of a heterogeneous mixture of clay, silt, sand, gravel, and boulders ranging in size and shape.
GRAVEL PACK--Coarse sand and gravel placed in the annular space between the borehole and the well casing in the vicinity of the well screen. The purpose of the gravel pack is to minimize the entry of fine sediment into the well, stabilize the borehole, and allow the flow of ground water into the well.
GREENHOUSE EFFECT--Popular term used to describe the roles of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases in keeping the earth's surface warmer than it would be otherwise. These "radiatively active" gases are relatively transparent to incoming short wave radiation but are relatively opaque to outgoing long wave radiation. The latter radiation, which would otherwise escape to space, is trapped by these gases within the lower levels of the atmosphere. The subsequent reradiation of some of the energy back to the surface maintains surface temperatures higher than they would be if the gases were absent. There is concern that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and manmade chlorofluorocarbons, may enhance the greenhouse effect and cause global warming.
GREENHOUSE GASES--Gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone, that insulate the earth, letting sunlight through to the earth's surface while trapping outgoing radiation. Also see greenhouse effect and trace gas.
GROUND WATER--Underground water that is generally found in the pore space of rocks or sediments and that can be collected with wells, tunnels, or drainage galleries, or that flows naturally to the earth's surface via seeps or springs.
GYPSUM--A soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate with water (CaSO4H2O). Gypsum can be found as rock gypsum, elenite, alabaster, or satin spar. Some secondary cave formations can consist of gypsu, especially in the Red Hills.
HARDNESS--(1) Water-quality parameter that indicates the level of alkaline salts, principally calcium and magnesium, and expressed as equivalent calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Hard water is commonly recognized by the increased quantities of soap, detergent, or shampoo necessary to lather. (2) In mineralogy, the degree of hardness of a mineral is an aid in identification. Geologists have assigned numbers to the hardness of several minerals; in this hardness scale, softer minerals are assigned a low mineral and the harder minerals a higher number.
HIGH PLAINS AQUIFER--In Kansas, three, hydraulicaly connected but distinct aquifers: the Ogallala, Great Bend Prairie, and Equus Beds aquifers. In general, the Ogallala Formation is made up of unconsolidated sand, gravel, silt, and clay deposited by streams that flowed east from the Rocky Mountains during the Miocene Epoch. The Great Bend Prairie and Equus Beds aquifers are also composed of silt, clay, and gravel deposits left by streams flowing through central Kansas, but these deposits are generally younger (Pleistocene and Holocene) than the Ogallala. In some areas, these aquifers are in contact with each other and thus form one continuous aquifer.
HYDRAULIC HEAD OR (STATIC) HEAD--Height that water in an aquifer can raise itself above an (arbitrary) reference level (or datum), and is generally measured in feet. When a borehole is drilled into an aquifer, the level at which the water stands in the borehole (measured with reference to a horizontal datum such as sea level) is, for most purposes, the hydraulic head of water in the aquifer. This term defines how much energy water possesses. Ground water possesses energy mainly by virtue of its elevation (elevation head) and of its pressure (pressure head). See also hydrostatic head. When ground water moves, some energy is dissipated and therefore a head loss occurs.
HYDRAULICALLY CONNECTED--A condition in which ground water moves easily between aquifers that are in direct contact. An indication of this condition is that the water levels in both aquifers are approximately equal.
HYDROLOGIC BUDGET OR BALANCE--Accounting of the inflow to, outflow from, and storage in a hydrologic unit such as a drainage basin, aquifer, soil zone, lake, or reservoir; the relationship between evaporation, precipitation, runoff, and the change in water storage, expressed by the hydrologic equation.
HYDROLOGIC CYCLE--The complete cycle that water can pass through, beginning as atmospheric water vapor, turning into precipitation and falling to the earth's surface, moving into aquifers or surface water, and then returning to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration.
HYDROLOGY--The study of the characteristics and occurrence of water, and the hydrologic cycle. Hydrology concerns the science of surface and ground waters, whereas hydrogeology principally focuses on ground water.
INDUCED INFILTRATION OR INDUCED RECHARGE--Recharge to ground water by infiltration, either natural or human-made, from a body of surface water as a result of the lowering of the ground-water hydraulic head below the surface-water level.
ISOPOD--An invertebrate aminal in the biologic order Isopoda. Isopods are small segmented crustaceans, the best known of which are sow bugs and other land-dwelling species. In caves aquatic isopiods are often studied because many are troglobitic and depend on caves for survival.
ISOTOPE--An isotope is an element that has a specific number of neutrons in its nucleus. Neutrons, along with protons and electrons, are the building blocks of atoms. Protons and neutrons form the nucleus of the atom, and electrons orbit around the nucleus. The number of protons in an element is constant; if you change the number of protons, you end up with a different element. Neutron numbers, however, can vary, creating the different isotopes of a given element. For example, oxygen always has 8 protons, but it can have 8, 9, or 10 neutrons. All naturally occurring elements have isotopes. Some isotopes are unstable (radioactive) and decay to stable isotopes. The isotopes of an element have slightly different properties, owing to their mass differences, by which they can be separated.
JURASSIC PERIOD--The interval of geologic time between approximately 205.7 and 142 million years ago. In Kansas, rocks of Jurassic age, about 175 million years old, underlie much of the western part of the state and crop out in two locations in Morton County. See discussion of Point of Rocks.
KARST--A terrain or type of topography generally underlain by soluble rocks, such as limestone, gypsum, and dolomite, in which the topography is chiefly formed by dissolving the rock; karst is characterized by sinkholes, depressions, caves, and underground drainage.
LOESS--Nonstratified sediment composed of silt-sized particles deposited by the wind. These windblown dust deposits were derived from glacial materials. Loess is found throughout Kansas but is especially common in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the state.
MEASURED STRATIGRAPHIC SECTION--Recorded description of a rock outcrop, usually depicted with a graphic column. Descriptions may include thickness, composition, fossil content, geologic structures, and other features of the rock units.
MINERAL--A naturally occurring inorganic element or compound having a periodically repeating arrangement of atoms and characteristic chemical composition, resulting in distinctive physical properties.
MISSISSIPPIAN PERIOD--The interval of geologic time from 354 million to 323 million years ago. Rocks deposited during the Mississippian crop out in Kansas only in the southeasternmost corner of the state.
MODELING--Investigative technique that uses a mathematical or physical representation of a system or theory that accounts for all or some of its known properties. Models are often used to test the effects of changes of system components on the overall performance of the system.
MOSASAUR--An extinct marine reptile that lived in the Cretaceous seas. Some mosasaur species were 45 to 50 feet long. Mosasaurs were the dominant carnivores in many marine environments. See Oceans of Kansas Paleontology for more information on the animals that lived in the Cretaceous seas of Kansas.
OOLITES--Sedimentary rocks made up of ooids cemented together. An ooid is a small spherical grain of sedimentary material that forms when a particle of sand or other nucleus is coated with concentric layers of calcite or other minerals. Ooids most often form in shallow, wave-agitated marine water. Oolitic limestones, particularly of Pennsylvanian age, are found at or near the surface in the eastern third of Kansas.
OZONE--Molecule made up of three atoms of oxygen (O3). In the stratosphere, it occurs naturally and it provides a protective layer shielding the Earth from ultraviolet radiation and subsequent harmful health effects on humans and the environment. In the troposphere, it is a chemical oxidant and major component of photochemical smog.
PALYNOLOGY--Science of reconstructing the past flora and past climate from pollen data obtained from lake and bog sediments. The fossil pollen record is a function of the regional flora and vegetation at a given time and location.
PELECYPOD--Any aquatic mollusk belonging to the class Pelecypoda (phylum Mollusca), which includes clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters. Pelecypods have two symmetrical calcareous shells, called right and left valves, that are joined by a hinge. Pelecypods are also known as bivalves because of this bilateral symmetry. Most pelecypods are bottom-dwelling and live in shallow marine waters.
PENNSYLVANIAN PERIOD--The interval of geologic time from approximately 323 million to 290 million years ago. The period is named after the state of Pennsylvania in which rocks of this age are widespread and yield much coal. In Kansas, good exposures of Pennsylvanian rocks showing alternations of shale and limestone exist in many places in eastern Kansas.
PERCHING HORIZON--A relatively impermeable (i.e., incapable of transmitting fluids) lens or layer of clay or bedrock in otherwise permeable sediments that slows or prevents the downward movement of water.
PERMEABLE--Permeability is a measure of the ease with which a fluid will move through a porous material (e.g., sand and gravel or rock). A geologic unit is permeable if ground water moves easily throught it.
PERMEABILITY--(1) Ability of a material (generally an earth material) to transmit fluids (water) through its pores when subjected to pressure or a difference in head. Expressed in units of volume of fluid (water) per unit time per cross section area of material for a given hydraulic head; (2) description of the ease with which a fluid may move through a porous medium; abbreviation of intrinsic permeability. It is a property of the porous medium only, in contrast to hydraulic conductivity, which is a property of both the porous medium and the fluid content of the medium.
PERMIAN PERIOD--The interval of geologic time from approximately 290 to 248.2 million years ago. In Kansas, rocks from the early part of the Permian include many of the limestones and shales that form the Flint Hills; later Permian deposits include the red beds of south-central Kansas.
pH--measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of water. Defined as the negative log (base 10) of the hydrogen ion concentration. Water with a pH of 7 is neutral; lower pH levels indicate an increasing acidity, while pH levels above 7 indicate increasingly basic solutions.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS--Manufacture by plants of carbohydrates and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll with sunlight as the energy source. Oxygen and water vapor are released in the process. Photosynthesis is dependent on favorable temperature and moisture conditions as well as on the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Increased levels of carbon dioxide can increase net photosynthesis in many plants.
PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGION (or PROVINCE)--A region of which all parts are similar in geologic structure and climate and which has consequently had a unified geomorphic history; a region whose patterns of relief features or landforms differs significantly from that of adjacent regions. (from Glossary of Geology, 4th Edition).
PLAYA--Flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin, becoming at times a shallow muddy lake after heavy rainfall; or the flooding of a river which on evaporation may leave a deposit of salt or gypsum. A salt pan. The Great Basin in Nevada and Utah in the western United States has many playas.
POPCORN--A term given to gnarled, bulbous, or pointed cave formations that form either from slow seeping of mineralized water from porous bedrock or as coatings on submerged walls and floors. Also know as cave coral.
POROUS--Geologically, this term describes rock that permits movement of fluids through small, often microscopic openings, much as water moving through a sponge. Porous rocks may contain gas, oil, or water.
POTENTIOMETRIC SURFACE--Imaginary surface representing the static head of ground water and defined by the level to which water will rise in a well. The water table is a particular potentiometric surface.
PRAIRIE--Gentle undulating, almost flat, generally treeless, grassy plains of North America, covering the southern regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in Canada and central United States from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains about as far east as Lake Michigan. The light summer rains with local droughts and high summer temperatures encourage a rich growth of grass, but few trees. They form the North American equivalent of the Pampas of South America, the Steppes of Eurasia, and the Veldt of South Africa.
PTEROSAUR--Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles. Pteranodon, the genus found in Kansas, had a toothless beak and a nearly 20-foot wingspan. Half of the Pteranodon fossils collected feature long, crested skulls, while the other half had skulls with short, small crests. Scientists believe the longer-crested specimens are males. These pterosaurs lived near and hunted in the shallow sea that covered the western part of the state during the Cretaceous Period.
QUARTZ--An important rock-forming mineral, crystalline silica (SiO2) occurs either in transparent hexagonal crystals or in crystalline or cryptocrystalline masses. Quartz is the commonest mineral next to feldspar and forms the majority of most sands. It is widely distributed in igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. It has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale.
RADIOACTIVITY--Release of energy and energetic particles by changes occurring within atomic or nuclear structures. Radioactive energy is released in various ways such as alpha radiation, beta radiation, and gamma radiation. Radioactivity data are expressed in terms of concentration of specific nuclides. General measurements of total or gross alpha or beta and gamma activity also are often reported. The radioactivity of water is usually expressed in terms of the rate of radioactive disintegration (curies) per liter of water.
RECHARGE AREA--A geographic area where water enters (recharges) an aquifer. Recharge areas usually coincide with topographically elevated regions where aquifer units crop out at the surface. In these areas infiltrated precipitation is the primary source of recharge. The recharge area may also coincide with the area of hydraulic connection where one aquifer receives flow from another adjacent aquifer.
RESURGENCE--A speleologic term for spring of the exit of ground water to the surface. Often refers to the downstream cave opening. An opening where flowing surface water enters the subsurface is known as an insurgence.
RIMSTONE--A speleothem that results from the movement of water over a ridge where minerals are deposited on the ridge. With time the ridge gradually builds upward in an upstream direction forming a rimstone dam. Pools are formed behind these dams, and cave pearls and cave popcorn may form in these pools.
ROCK--Any naturally occurring mass that forms a part of the earth's crust. Rocks may be made up of one or more minerals (e.g., granite, shale, marble), undifferentiated mineral matter (e.g., obsidian), or solid orgainic material (e.g., coal).
RUNOFF--Drainage or flood discharge that leaves an area as surface flow or as pipeline flow, having reached a channel or pipeline by either surface or subsurface routes. Generally, surface water entering river, lakes, or reservoirs.
SAFE YIELD--(1) Rate of surface-water diversion or ground- water extraction from a basin for consumptive use over an indefinite period of time that can be maintained without producing negative effects; (2) the annual extraction from a ground-water unit which will not, or does not, i. exceed the average annual recharge; ii. so lower the water table that permissible cost of pumping is exceeded; iii. so lower the water table as to permit intrusion of water of undesirable quality; or iv. so lower the water table as to infringe upon existing water rights; (3) the attainment and maintenance of a long-term balance between the amount of ground water withdrawn annually and the annual amount of recharge; (4) the maximum quantity of water that can be guaranteed from a reservoir during a critical dry period. Synonymous to firm yield.
SALINITY--The total quantity of dissolved salts in water, usually measured by weight in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm). The upper limit for freshwater is 1,000 mg/L; natural seawater has a salinity of approximately 35,000 mg/L.
SCALLOP--A speleothem formed from solution by water movement on bedrock surfaces. Abrasion erosion on rock surfaces forms flat surfaces on rock, but solutional erosion often produces a dimpled surface like that of a golf ball. The steeper side of the dimple is the upstream side.
SEDIMENTARY ROCK--Rocks formed from sediment, broken rocks, or organic matter. Many sedimentary rocks are formed when wind or water deposits sediment into the layers, which are pressed together by more layers of sediment, forming underground beds of rocks.
SHALE--Rock that is often impervious to water (will not allow water to move through it) but rather soft, brittle, and easily eroded. Shale is the result of compaction of silt or mud. Much of the Permian and Pennsylvanian strata in Kansas consists of various shales, often brightly colored.
SINK (SINKHOLE)--A depression in the surface of the earth caused by solution and/or collapse of rock. A sink is an entry point for water into cave and spring systems. All sinks will carry water into the subsurface.
SOLAR NEBULA THEORY--The current theory for the origin of the solar system, which involves a huge cloud of gases and dispersed solids condensing under its own gravitational attraction, then contracting, rotating, and flattening into a disk, with the sun forming in the center and planets forming in localized eddies around the sun.
SOLUTION--Geologically, the action of the dissolving of rock by water or the term to describe the water that dissolves the rock. Limestone dissolves in acidic solutions; gypsum can be dissolved in pure water. On dissolving the rock, the water becomes a calcite solution (the calcite may later be redeposited).
STRAWTITE--Also known as a soda straw, this term describes stalactites in their infant stage. When calcite-laden dripwater hangs on the ceiling and falls, movement releases carbon dioxide and a ring of calcite is deposited at the point from which it fell. As the formation grows, it resembles a drinking straw and can be several inches long. Eventually, most soda straws will become clogged by calcite growths within them. Then the water is forced to flow down the outside of the stawtites, and minerals deposited on the outer surface. Ultimately, the stalactite becomes the carrot-shaped form usually seen in caves.
STREAK--The finely powdered material left behind when a mineral is rubbed on a piece of unglazed porcelain. This streak may have a different color from that of the mineral itself and is an excellent check in identifying many minerals.
TALUS--Fallen or broken rock that is found at the foot of a steep slope. The spaces between talus boulders may be interconnected and large enough to be considered caves. The longest talus cave in Kansas is 81 feet long (Talus Cave in Montgomery County).
THERMAL POLLUTION--Reduction in water quality caused by increasing its temperature, often due to the disposal of waste heat from industrial or power generation processes. Thermally polluted water often undergoes biological changes that render it less valuable for drinking, recreation, habitat, or industrial use.
TRANSPARENCY--(Mineralogy) The degree to which light passes through a small piece of a mineral. If objects can be seen through the mineral, it is said to be transparent. If no light passes through and nothing can be seen through a small piece, the mineral is called opaque. Minerals that are neither opaque or transparent are said to be translucent.
TROGLOBITE--One of four classes of cavernicoles (life forms found in caves). These four classes are (1) accidental, animals washed into caves or those that fall into sinkholes, (2) trogloxene, animals that visit caves, (3) troglophile, animals that live in caves, and (4) troglobite. A troglobite is a cave-adapted animal living permanently underground in the dark zone of caves and only accidentally leaving it. It is completely dependent on caves for survival and cannot survive outside caves for long periods.
TROGLOPHILE--An animal that habitually enters or lives permanently within the dark zone of a cave but is also capable of living outside because it is not evolved or adapted specifically to caves. Some accidentals are capable of becoming troglophiles if they are able to survive in caves.
TROGLOXENE--An animal that visits caves but is dependent on the outside for food. Trogloxenes included all cave bats, people, raccoons, and other surface species that must spend part of their lives outside caves to survive.
VADOSE--Indicating the area below the earth surface but above the water table. Includes all ground water above the water table. In caves vadose water forms stalactites and other dripstone speleothems. Vadose cave streams carve trenches and canyons and vertical pits as the water table lowers with time.
WATER TABLE--A fluctuating demarcation line between the unsaturated (vadose) zone and the saturated (phreatic) zone that forms an aquifer. It may rise or fall depending on precipitation (rainfall) trends. The water table is semiparallel to the land surface above but is not always a consistent straight line. Because of impervious beds of shale, etc., local water tables can be perched above the area's average water table.
WATER VAPOR--Water present in the atmosphere in gaseous form; the source of all forms of condensation and precipitation. Water vapor, clouds, and carbon dioxide are the main atmospheric components in the exchange of terrestrial radiation in the troposphere serving as a regulator of planetary temperatures via the greenhouse effect. Approximately 50 percent of the atmosphere's moisture lies within about 1.84 km of the earth's surface, and only a minute fraction of the total occurs above the tropopause.
Buchanan, R. C., and Buddemeier, R. W., compilers, 1993, Kansas Ground Water--An Introduction to the State's Water Quantity, Quality, and Management Issues: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 10, 44 p.
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