26 August 2014
Intrigued by Earthquakes and Volcanoes? It’s Easy to Become Geologically Literate
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Meteorologists in general do not know much about Geology, but broadcast mets are usually the first person newsroom producers (and the public) turn to when there is an earthquake, tsunami, meteor showers etc. I had a couple of great courses in Geology working on my masters, and a field trip to the Washington State was a fantastic learning experience, and it left me with a lifelong fascination of rocks and quakes! My goal is to know enough to give the basics, and also enough to know when I need to ask an expert!
I’ve often written here about how poor scientific literacy is here in America, and I worry that some folks will misinterpret that to mean they have to study dry textbooks to be otherwise!
Here are some good reads for those who want to understand more about earthquakes and volcanoes. Specifically four books (and a pdf file) that will make you more knowledgeable about Geology than 95% of the population. and probably more like 98%!
Read these books and you will be geologically literate. I warn you now though, when you read articles about volcanoes and quakes in mass media, you will shake your head and mutter something along the lines of “well that’s not exactly right”.
You should read these in order.
1. Earthquake Storms– An unauthorized biography of the San Andreas Fault. (I suspect she will sue for libel). This is a great book about seismology, quakes, and the most famous fault in the world. It’s more a history of geology in California, and I’ve found that reading about the history of a science is a great way to learn it.
2. Full Rip 9.0 The Next Big Earthquake in The Pacific Northwest. Sandi Doughton is the science writer for the Seattle Times, and she does a fantastic job of telling the amazing scientific detective story of an earthquake 300 years ago, and what it means for residents of the Pacific Northwest. Read this book second.
3. Now, you are intrigued, and want to know what is behind all those squiggly lines on a seismograph. Seismology is mathematically complex, but there is a great pamphlet about seismic waves and how to understand the difference between a P wave and an S wave. Read this third. (and it’s free!).
4. Assembling California. This classic by John McPhee is a part of the larger door stop book Annals of the Former World (Annals is on every real nerds bookshelf).
5. Eruptions that Shook The World by Clive Oppenheimer. This is the only book that has some equations, but they are basic and anyone can read it. It’s the only book that focuses on volcanoes. It is a bit more like a textbook than the others but still very fascinating. Finish this and you are definitely volcano literate!
Want something a little more formal? This great text-book that will round it all up for you. Buy an OLD edition from Ebay. Don’t pay the outrageous text-book prices.
Read all that and you will stop at road cuts for the rest of your life! Oh, and when you travel get the appropriate Roadside Geology book for your area, it will add to your trip or vacation and if kids are along they will have a blast.
may I suggest a few?
After the Earth Quakes- Elastic Rebound on an Urban Planet by Susan Hough & Roger Bilham
Cascadia’s Fault by Jerry Thompson
Predicting the Unpredictable by Susan Hough (about why we can’t really predict earthquakes)
I also somehow managed to pick up a new copy of Global Tectonics for $18 once.
Thnx for the book reccs. I (and many others) will check them out!
Excellent reading list! Living on the central Oregon Coast makes me very attuned and appreciative of this kind of writing. And i love road-cuts. There is a spectacular one on Oregon Hwy 36 just west of Low Pass – wildly tilted strata in the siltstone/mudstone on the north side of the highway. Just thinking about how it got that way makes my head spin and my heart beat fast. 🙂 Yes, i am a geo-nerd.
As one of my geology professor said. ” It will be just my luck to die before Cascadia rips “. I am personally going to be really pissed if Cascadia waits till after I am dead. My favorite book which I first read in pieces in the New Yorker. I have made a personal pilgrimage to the boyhood home of John Love on Muskrat Creek. My wife refers to roadcut as geologic emergency. Can I say that she pass up on the trip to Muskrat.