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Book Review:
Living with Earthquakes in California: a Survivor’s Guide

On the Shelf:
Physical Geology

Mapping tsunami risk in Alaska

Scientific journal for vadose zone

Geoquotes -- our newest Geomedia feature!

Living with Earthquakes in California: a Survivor’s Guide
by Robert S. Yeats. Oregon State University Press (2001). ISBN 0-87071-493.7. Paperback, $21.95.8.

Robert H. Sydnor

With its 33 million citizens and 182-plus active faults, California is highly vulnerable to earthquake damage. This book fills an acute need for a reliable compendium of seismology information that is both scholarly and lucid. Living with Earthquakes in California is a well-written narrative that would be warmly received by both professional geologists and California citizens who are constructively concerned about seismic safety.

The book reflects more than three decades of field geology experience in California by the author. Robert S. Yeats is professor emeritus of geology at Oregon State University, and has written a number of textbooks and seminal papers in neotectonics, regional geology and petroleum geology. He has supervised several dozen theses and dissertations in the western Transverse Ranges of California and the Los Angeles Basin. Yeats began his career as a petroleum geologist for Shell Oil Co. and gained a vast knowledge of the structural geology of deep sedimentary basins in California. In the second half of his career in academia, he adroitly combined these unique insights in petroleum geology with his knowledge of Quaternary geology to advance the science of neotectonics, engineering geology and applied seismology.

The book is divided into four parts: Part 1 recounts three centuries of people and earthquakes in California. Part 2 includes eight chapters on geologic time, plate tectonics, earthquake basics, the San Andreas fault, the Transverse Ranges, significant earthquakes in eastern California and other rural areas, the Cascadia subduction zone, and earthquake forecasting. Part 3 contains two short chapters on seismic shaking (rock vs. soil), and on tsunamis. Part 4 concludes with seven chapters on prevention and countermeasures: earthquake insurance, home preparedness, earthquake design of large structures, federal support of earthquake research, the role of the California Geological Survey and preparing for the next earthquake. This final chapter, “An Uncertain Appointment with a Restless Earth,” is a clarion call to action. The span of earthquake information in the book’s 406 pages is profound. It reflects considerable effort by the author to marshal an entire library of geologic knowledge and distill it into a single sourcebook for California seismic safety that is reliable and readable.

Yeats has included a useful bibliography featuring Web site addresses for sources of seismic safety information, government agencies, professional geology and seismology societies, and universities. Literature citations occupy eight pages, including both seismology journal articles and popular books for the general reader. The seven pages of detailed credits reveal the underlying strength of the book. To gain reliable, first-hand information, Yeats corresponded with a legion of geologists, seismologists, government officials, actuaries and seismic safety planners. He generously credits his professional colleagues with their specific contributions.

Geologists and seismologists will find that Living with Earthquakes in California fills in the gaps in their knowledge of earthquakes, seismic safety planning and tectonic geomorphology. The vivid narrative includes the human sides of the geologists and seismologists who worked diligently in the past century — their insights, their mistakes and setbacks, and their victories in the face of adversity.

Professors will find inspiring and colorful field-geology stories that can be reliably retold in the lecture hall. (Example: How geologists in the United States and Japan came to realize that the giant, magnitude-9 Cascadia earthquake last occurred about 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700; see pages 159 through 175 for a riveting narrative.)
The general public will be informed on compelling reasons for earthquake insurance (chapter 11), and will find useful guidelines about cost-effective structural retrofits and prescient repairs (chapter 12).

Elected government officials will find this book to be valuable for comprehensive background briefing prior to voting on seismic safety issues.
Lastly, the book’s price is right. The California Geological Survey has sold this book in its booth at national geoscience conventions, so it comes highly recommended for professional geologists and the public alike.

Sydnor is a senior engineering geologist with the California Geological Survey. He has 32 years of experience in engineering geology and seismology.

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On the Shelf

Volcanoes by Philippe Bourseiller and Jacques Durieux, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers (2002), ISBN 0-810-91699-1. Hardcover, $34.97.

This oversized volume may be the ultimate geologic coffee-table book. It features 170, two-page-spread images by photographer Bourseiller of the world’s active volcanoes and their impacts on humans. Originally published in French, this English-language version also includes a series of short thematic essays by Durieux.

Physical Geology, ninth edition by Charles C. Plummer, David McGeary and Diane H. Carlson, McGraw Hill Higher Education (2002), ISBN 0-07-240246-6. Hardcover, $80.94

As is fast becoming the norm, the newest edition of this best-selling physical geology textbook — written by three professors at California State University at Sacramento — is accompanied by a Web site with additional text, exercises, and animations.

Mapping tsunami risk in Alaska
Lisa M. Pinsker

Subduction of the Pacific Plate under the North American Plate in south Alaska creates one of the most seismically active regions of the world. When an earthquake occurs, the crustal movements can produce vertical displacements of the sea floor that can in turn create tsunamis. As a result, Alaska has the greatest potential for tsunamis in the United States. However, until now, the state has had no adequate maps that show which areas of the coastal zones would be flooded from a tsunami, or so-called tsunami inundation maps.

The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (ADDGS), in cooperation with the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute (UAGI), has released a set of inundation maps for three communities on Kodiak Island as part of the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program that began in 1997. The maps depict the worst-case flooding for most areas as a result of a tsunami event caused by the 1964 Alaska earthquake that devastated many Alaska coastal communities. Other Pacific states, including Hawaii, Washington, California and Oregon, have successfully created 18 inundation maps for more than 80 communities. The Kodiak publication is Alaska’s first.

Alaska’s tsunami mapping program began in 1998, and researchers identified Kodiak as a high-priority region for inundation mapping. On March 27, 1964, the magnitude 9.2 Prince William Sound earthquake initiated a tsunami that hit Kodiak, killing six people and causing about $30 million in damages. Since then, the damaged harbor and waterfront areas have recovered. Emergency managers hope the two new, 1:12,500-scale maps that show inundation lines for the city of Kodiak and the nearby, U.S. Coast Guard Reservation and Women’s Bay will lead to mitigation measures to prevent future loss of life and property should a tsunami hit.

In the past, mapping Alaska’s many high-priority areas has proved challenging. “The production of tsunami inundation maps in Alaska is different from that in other states because of difficulties in obtaining high resolution and high quality digital bathymetric and topographic data sets,” says Elena Suleimani, the lead scientist for the Kodiak mapping project and a researcher at UAGI. Such data simply do not exist for large parts of Alaska coastline because Alaska is tectonically active with wide variation in the sources and ages of data. This variation makes it difficult to resolve differences in reference levels that are necessary to merge bathymetric and topographic data, said Frank Gonzales in a paper presented last year at the International Tsunami Symposium in Seattle.

Fortunately, Suleimani and colleagues were able to acquire enough data to run bathymetric and topographic grids through a tsunami numerical model on the machines of the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “The model run that takes 4 to 6 hours on the Supercomputer will run on the UNIX workstation in my office for more than a week,” Suleimani says.

In the numerical model, hypothetical earthquakes serve as potential sources for tsunamis. Suleimani and others used seven scenarios including both distant and local sources. The basis for four of the scenarios is the 1964 Kodiak tsunami, which originated in the trench and upper plate fold and thrust belt area of the subduction zone. The scenarios represent the 1964 event using simple one-fault sources as well as a multiple-fault approach. The other three scenarios use historical data from a 1938 earthquake and geologic data on the Shumagin gap area, the nearby Narrow Cape fault and the distant Cascadia subduction zone.

“With the exception of part of Women’s Bay, the worst-case tsunami scenario for the three Kodiak communities is the inundation caused by the modeled 1964 event with 17 subfaults,” write the map creators in the June ADGGS newsletter.

In addition to the historical and geologic data, human observations of the 1964 tsunami helped researchers to fine-tune inundation estimates and provided a test of the modeling results. “Some of these observations were recorded in published reports, and others were obtained from eyewitness accounts during the course of preparing the maps. Additionally, observations of preserved tsunami effects, such as driftwood lines and tsunami-deposited sand, helped to determine the extent of inundation in some areas where human documentation was unavailable,” says Rod Combellick of the ADGGS.

State and local emergency managers are using the Kodiak maps to identify evacuation areas during tsunami warnings, as well as to place warning signs, and to prepare maps of evacuation routes. Emergency managers in California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon have used similar inundation maps to determine the most effective evacuation routes, say Combellick and Scott Simmons from the Alaska Division of Emergency Services (ADES). The evacuation maps, developed by ADES and the city of Kodiak based on the inundation maps, also show the locations of critical infrastructure facilities, including police and fire stations, hospitals and schools.

So far, ADGGS has provided the Kodiak tsunami-hazard maps to the Kodiak Island Borough, the City of Kodiak, the U.S. Coast Guard Reservation at Kodiak and the Alaska Division of Emergency Services. Other groups and individuals have purchased the maps for their use, and many people have downloaded the maps and report from the ADGGS Web site.

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Scientific journal for vadose zone
Sara Procknow

Starting this fall, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is launching the Vadose Zone Journal, in cooperation with the Geological Society of America and with support from the Environmental Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society. This all-electronic, peer-reviewed, international journal will provide an avenue for interdisciplinary research and assessment of the vadose zone, the mostly unsaturated zone between the soil surface and the permanent groundwater table.

The scientific community has an increasing need for effective dissemination of information about the physical, chemical and biological processes operating in this zone. Currently no scientific journal focuses specifically on the vadose zone. The mission of the Vadose Zone Journal is to fill this gap.

“Several years ago a number of soil physicists in SSSA recognized the growing importance of vadose zone issues,” says Robert Luxmoore, past president of SSSA.
“Many soil scientists had expanded beyond investigation of surface soil to address issues such as groundwater contamination, cleanup of buried waste sites and water resource management.”

Growing human populations, along with their requirements for building materials, energy, minerals, water resources and effective waste disposal systems, have created multi-dimensional challenges for government agencies responsible for land management. The research and assessment needs of the vadose zone have grown in response to the pressure of increasing human impacts. The multidisciplinary dimensions of many vadose zone issues brought realization that a new publication could provide a much-needed outlet for a diverse range of scientists and engineers.

More than 30 original research papers and reviews have been submitted and accepted for the inaugural issue of the Vadose Zone Journal, to be posted online this month. The stories range from: “The Impact of Climate Change on the Chemical Composition of Deep Vadose Zone Waters,” to “Fluid Flow, Heat Transfer and Solute Transport at Nuclear Waste Storage Tanks in the Hanford Vadose Zone,” to “Dynamic Effect in the Capillary Pressure-Saturation Relationship and Its Impacts on Unsaturated Flow.”

The quarterly Vadose Zone Journal will disseminate information to facilitate science-based decision making and sustainable management of the vadose zone, including topics on variably saturated fluid flow, heat and mass transport, transport in fractured media, capillary barrier design, multicomponent transport, fate and transport of microorganisms, biogeochemical transformations, and bioremediation. The journal will also address yet-to-be-resolved issues, such as how to quantify heterogeneity of subsurface processes and properties, and how to couple physical, chemical and biological processes across a range of spatial scales from the molecular to the global.

“It is pleasing to see the Vadose Zone Journal become a reality,” says editor Martinus “Rien” van Genuchten. “Many of us long recognized the need for a journal dedicated to multidisciplinary research and assessment of the vadose zone that bridges areas covered traditionally by soil scientists, hydrologists, geologists, petroleum engineers, chemical engineers and atmospheric scientists.”

The journal’s international editorial board has 34 members, including an editor for book reviews and another for executive summaries. Serving as editor is van Genuchten, research leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Soil Physics and Pesticide Research Unit, and acting director of the USDA George E. Brown Jr. Salinity Laboratory. Genuchten is a fellow of the SSSA and the American Geophysical Union and is known for his constitutive models for the hydraulic properties of unsaturated porous media.

The journal uses electronic procedures for the entire publishing process, from submission to review to publication. The first issue will be available at online through Stanford University’s HighWire Press. Each article will be available online with cross-references to the society’s other journals, as subject collections search, as searchable archives and as a printable PDF. Free trial access to the Journal is available through December 2002. Visit the Vadose Zone Journal Web site to learn more about the journal, to register for free access or to view the submission guidelines.

Procknow is the communications manager for the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America.

Welcome to the fourth installment of GeoQuotes, a section that features a different example each month of geology in the non-geological literature.

Richard Smith at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho says he has been collecting geoquotes for a long time. This month’s GeoQuotes is a compilation of some of his favorites:

Go my Sons, buy stout shoes, climb the mountains, search the valleys, the deserts, the sea shores, and the deep recesses of the earth...for in this way and in no other will you arrive at a knowledge of the nature and properties of things.
P. Severinus, 1778

Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
Will Durant

Sedimentary rocks are to real rocks as sawdust is to trees.
J.P. Iddings, 1895

The marriage of Pele, goddess of earth and fire, and Kamapuaa, god of water, was short and violent. In a rage she routed him from her crater of fire and chased him with streams of lava into the sea.
Ancient Hawaiian Legend

Do you have a favorite Geoquote? Please share it with us. Send one by letter to: Geoquotes, Geotimes, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302 or by e-mail with the subject “Geoquotes.”

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