We live on a mobile planet, one that not only whirls us around the
Sun annually but also throws us for the occasional loop when the crust
beneath our feet proves less than stable. Our features this month address
two of the ways that moving Earth affects us and, in particular, tests
the infrastructure that we have built up around ourselves.
Karst hazards occur when the surface collapses due to subterranean
erosion in limestone terrains. Although they do not often make national
news, sinkholes and subsidence are an ongoing and costly problem at a local
level. Nowhere is that more true than in the Blue Grass State, as Kentucky
State Geologist Jim Cobb and hydrogeologist Jim Currens of the Kentucky
Geological Survey describe in our first feature. Karst is also the subject
of this month’s Geoscience Education column and a poster enclosed with
Moving west across the United States and higher up in the headlines,
Yumei Wang of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries gives
us an overview of the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Nisqually, Wash.,
on Feb. 28, reminding residents of the Pacific Northwest that they live
near an active subduction zone. Wang was part of a team that assessed the
post-quake damage, and she offers her perspective on why damage from the
Nisqually quake was relatively low and how it shows us what we must do
to minimize damage from larger, more destructive quakes in the future.
Such devastation struck India the month before the Nisqually quake
when a magnitude-7.7 quake hit that country’s northwest region. Geotimes
associate editor Christina Reed asked geologists and engineers who had
seen the damage first-hand why this quake destroyed so many buildings
in cities far from the epicenter, leaving a death toll of at least 20,000.
Of course, our planet does not always move itself. In the United States
alone, sand and gravel operations and quarries move the equivalent of many
mountains to provide the nation’s highway and construction infrastructure.
In Comment, R.A. Edwards of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
discusses current policies that affect his industry. NSSGA is a newly formed
trade association that is a merging of the National Stone Association and
National Aggregates Association.
For those of you who have grown familiar with the wonderfully lucid
letters by Geotimes Editor-in-Chief Sam Adams in this space, we
are filling in while Sam and his wife Nancy follow their compass to Australia
for a couple of months. We have no doubt that they will make the necessary
southern hemispheric adjustments and that he will return to this space
We hope that you enjoy the issue.