Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cascadia's Fault - Part 2

Finishing my review of Cascadia's Fault by Jerry Thompson.  Read yesterday's post if you haven't already and then come back here...

My last post illustrates the biggest problem with the book - not one diagram of the Cascadia subductions zone.  Not one map.  Not one cross-section.  The purpose of the book is to make the public “sit up, pay attention, and get ready” yet non-geologists will simply not understand the geological explanations Thompson provides.  It would have been trivially easy to include these illustrations, and Thompson does provide a few pictures of historical earthquakes, like the 1964 Good Friday quake in Alaska, so it's puzzling why he didn't do so.

One strength of the book is the historical background but even this comes with a caveat.  Geologists began recognizing the danger of the Cascadia subduction zone around the time the modern theory of plate tectonics was being developed.  It was an exciting, and sometimes acrimonious, time in geology.  Thompson covers this historical development in detail, almost too much detail at times, yet fails to capture this excitement.  I honestly found much of the central part of this book to be tedious reading and started skimming even though I should have been interested.

Finally, the book was a bit sensationalistic (Thompson was trained as a journalist and he wants to sell documentaries).  The subtitle "the coming earthquake and tsunami that could devastate North America" is a bit overblown and the last part of the book is an absolute worst-case scenario of what could happen if a major earthqauke occurred along this fault zone.

So, bottom line, I can't recommend this book that much but it is an important issue and an interesting geologic feature which could cause great devastation when it lets go some day.  If you're still interested in reading it, borrow the book from the library like I did.

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