by John Dvorak
Hardcover, 352 pages
The lives of millions will be changed after it breaks, and yet so few people understand it, or even realize it runs through their backyard. Dvorak reveals the San Andreas Fault’s fascinating history—and it’s volatile future.It is a prominent geological feature that is almost impossible to see unless you know where to look. Hundreds of thousands of people drive across it every day. The San Andreas Fault is everywhere, and primed for a colossal quake. For decades, scientists have warned that such a sudden shifting of the Earth’s crust is inevitable. In fact, it is a geologic necessity. The San Andreas fault runs almost the entire length of California, from the redwood forest to the east edge of the Salton Sea. Along the way, it passes through two of the largest urban areas of the country—San Francisco and Los Angeles. Dozens of major highways and interstates cross it. Scores of housing developments have been planted over it. The words “San Andreas” are so familiar today that they have become synonymous with earthquake. Yet, few people understand the San Andreas or the network of subsidiary faults it has spawned. Some run through Hollywood, others through Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. The Hayward fault slices the football stadium at the University of California in half. Even among scientists, few appreciate that the San Andreas fault is a transient, evolving system that, as seen today, is younger than the Grand Canyon and key to our understanding of earthquakes worldwide.
Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault by John Dvorak is very highly recommended for those interested in earthquakes and essential for anyone living in or near California.
In Earthquake Storms John Dvorak does an admirable job presenting the history of earthquakes in California, and the San Andreas fault: "Running for 800 miles from the redwood forests of Cape Mendocino southward to the rugged Sonoran Desert on the east edge of the Salton Sea near the border with Mexico, the San Andreas Fault passes beneath dozens of communities and close to two of the nation’s largest cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It lies under major highways, pipelines, and crucial aqueducts. Scores of housing developments have been platted directly over it." Location 79
The title, Earthquake Storms, comes from knowledge gleaned from the studying the San Andreas Fault: "We also know from a study of the San Andreas Fault and its many subsidiary faults—the Hayward Fault, the Hollywood Fault, the Newport-Inglewood Fault, the San Jacinto Fault—that earthquakes do not occur randomly, nor do they reoccur like clockwork. Instead, large earthquakes can occur as clusters. And when a cluster of large earthquakes strikes over a period of, say, 100 years or so, there is an “earthquake storm.” Location 102
Dvorak discusses the many people who made important contributions to furthering the collective scientific knowledge in this area. Starting with Josiah Dwight Whitney and his four assistants who began a geological survey of the entire state of California, Dvorak also covers: John Muir and his observations; Andrew Lawson, the University of California geology professor who named the San Andreas Fault; Grove Karl Gilbert's creative observations about the origin of some mountain ranges; and naturally Charles Richter, who developed his magnitude scale "initially for southern California—for earthquakes along and near the San Andreas Fault." And these are just a few of those involved.
The importance of paleoseismology, (a new term for me) or the study of the geologic effects of past earthquakes is discussed. Paleoseismology would include "the fracturing, warping, folding, or sliding of sedimentary layers that were laid down at the bottom of swamps, rivers, or lakes. The key is finding a place where the layers were deposited continuously for many, many years and where they lie over an active fault." This also means a real tie in with archeology can be made to show earthquake storms in the past.
The most sobering statement is that it is predicted that "there is a 59% chance that a magnitude-6.7 or larger earthquake will occur along the Desert Hot Springs–Salton Sea segment of the San Andreas Fault in the next 30 years. That is almost twice the probability for a comparable earthquake happening on the nearby San Jacinto Fault or on the Hayward Fault." Location 3668
While I enjoy reading books about geology, I really think many people will find that Earthquake Storms is an informative book that is also very accessible to readers who enjoy history and only have a passing interest in geology. Included is an index (yes!), and photos (yeah!), as well as some other sources mentioned in the acknowledgements.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media via Netgalley for review purposes.