Geoscience at San Francisco Airport

Weather as AGU attendees return home from SFO.

The precipitation forecast as the American Geophysical Union fall meeting attendees headed to the airport to return home was less than ideal. Specifically, the airport was blanketed in fog, reducing airport operations to one runway, delaying and canceling flights. Line ups at security were the classic holiday madness, with television crews interviewing people about how long they’d been in line.

I made it through relatively painlessly, and found myself with the entirely of Terminal 3 to wander in excess after my flight was first delayed, then canceled, then rebooked, then delayed again. After holding a knitting group, a geochemistry breakout session, and other such road warrior diversions, I took it upon myself to document the geoscientific features evident within the airport.

Most commonly seen are rather horrific mock-granite linoleum in most of the food courts and small shops. I don’t have much to say about these beyond, “Gee, the plastic claims it cooled slowly.”

The bathroom walls are slightly more rewarding, with more mock-granite profile cutouts set against a background of actual rocks! It’s coarse-grained, indicating relatively slow cooling times, and light coloured, a common feature among our silica-rich explosive volcanoes. Again, not much more to say beyond that.

But where things get downright interesting is at Kid’s Spot, the children’s play area near Gate 87A. The play area is a project sponsored by the always-wonderful Exploratorium dedicated to atmospheric science. I was too enthralled to take photos, but the area features a tornado, two spinning liquid-filled globes to demonstrate storm formation, an aeolian landforms creation area, and a not-so-geologic tunnel. I highly recommend it if you find yourself with too much time at the airport!

Location: 37.61, -122.39

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