California Geology

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-11-04
  • Publisher: Pearson

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This interesting book uses plate tectonics as its central theme; it acquaints readers with California geology. Basic principles in the beginning of the book and tables of highlights for each province enable the reader to understand the whole picture of catastrophic national disasters, California history, mining methods, and societal impacts; it brings the lessons of geology closer to the everyday context of California life. After a comprehensive overview of the basic principles of geology, this book then focuses on the geological highlights of California (young volcanoes, deserts, the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada, the Klamath Mountains, water, the Great Valley, the coast Ranges, earthquakes, faults, and seismic safety, the transverse ranges, and the peninsular ranges). The inside back and front covers of the book contain a wealth of readily available information, with comprehensive geologic, fault, relief, and mountain range maps. A handy desk reference for geologists, this book is also a source of information for anyone interested in the evolution of California's terrain.

Author Biography

Deborah R. Harden is a Professor in the Department of Geology at San Jose State University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in California geology and Earth-surface processes. Her particular interests are in landscape-forming processes, rivers, the effects of faults on streams, human impacts on watersheds, and California geology.

Before coming to San Jose State University, Dr. Harden worked as a geologist for a private engineering consulting firm and as a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado and B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University, all in geology.

Dr. Harden has had the privilege and opportunity of visiting and studying geology and landscapes in many parts of the world, both professionally and with her family.

Table of Contents

Basic Principles of Geology
Plate Tectonics and California
California's Rocks and Minerals
Geologic Time, Dating Earth Materials, and California Fossils—Basics of Faults and Folds
Geologic Maps and Sources of Information Including Web Sites
Geological Highlights of California
Young Volcanoes: The Cascades, the Modoc Plateau, and the Long Valley Caldera
California's Deserts: Climate, Changing Environments, and Resources
The Basin and Range and Mojave Desert: Old Rocks and Young Faults
The Sierra Nevada: Granite, Gold, and Glaciers
The Klamath Mountains: Accreted Terranes and a View of the Mantle
Water in California
The Great Valley: Sediments and Soils
The Coast Ranges: Mountains of Complexity
Earthquakes, Faults, and Seismic Safety
The San Andreas Fault System
The California Coast
The Transverse Ranges, The Los Angeles Basin, and the Offshore Islands: Compression and Rapid Change
The Peninsular Ranges
California Geology: An Integrated View
The Evolution of California Through Geologic Time
Geology and California Citizens—Including Resources, Hazardous Geologic Processes, Climate Change, Changing Calif
Place Index
Subject Index
Plates: Inside Front and Back Covers
Geologic Map of California
Fault Map of California
Digital Shaded Relief Map of California
Map Showing Major Mountain Ranges, Streams, Lakes, Highways, and Cities of California
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Almost 100 years ago, on April 18, 1906, Californians encountered one of the unwelcome consequences of living on an active tectonic plate boundary, when the 1906 earthquake destroyed many of northern California''s communities. As we approach the centennial of the earthquake, we can appreciate our increased understanding of California geology and the greater preparedness for natural disaster that has come with that knowledge. Most Californians are aware that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and landslides have geological causes, but they are less aware of the positive influences of plate tectonics on the state''s history, economy, and quality of life. Resources such as gold, petroleum, and fertile soils are products of California''s geologic history, as is the diverse and beautiful landscape of our state. The supply, distribution, and safety of water in California will continue to be a major force in the state''s future, and they are partly controlled by geology. These are some of the reasons that students are attracted to beginning geology courses. Many of these students are not particularly interested in detailed information about rocks, formations, geologic models, or ages of materials. Many come to these courses without prior background in geology and without fluency in the complex vocabulary of geology and science in general. This book is intended to acquaint those students with the basic geologic history of California and to cover those topics that do interest non-geologists. I have included examples of natural disasters, aspects of California history that are tied to geology, geological resources, and discussions of the impact of geology on California society. These topics bring the relevance of geology to the daily context of California life. PURPOSE This book is intended for a semester-long course in California geology, but covering all of the chapters in detail during that time is not a realistic goal. Instructors are encouraged to cover the introductory and final chapters and to select the chapters from Part II that focus on their own location and interest. A college student, pre-college teacher, or interested citizen should be able to comprehend the material without having had a prerequisite course in geology. However, the content is also informative to geology majors, graduate students, and practicing geologists not intimately acquainted with California geology. Readers who complete this book should have a solid understanding of the following major concepts: Geology is a logical, non-intimidating, and enjoyable science. Geologists study geologic processes to better understand California''s geologic history as it is preserved by rocks, sediments, and structures. Maps and cross sections are a fundamental tool of geology. Plate tectonics has been the dominant factor that shapes California''s geology and landscape. California''s natural resources and hazardous natural events result from our geologic and tectonic setting. Geologists work with government agencies to mitigate the impact of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and landslides on California citizens, and to inform us about risks. California has many beautiful natural landscapes and geologic wonders that we can enjoy at hundreds of parks and preserves throughout the state. ORGANIZATION California Geologyis divided into three sections. The first four chapters are intended to introduce readers to the basic principles of geology. Because the basic concepts are illustrated with California examples, those with previous geology background will also benefit from the material in Part I. Part II, Chapters 5 through 17, covers the major features of California''s provinces and important geologic processes that are not specific to a single province. For each province, I have selected the most important geologic features or events. Therefore, these chapters do not cover all rock types, events, or geologic features found in each part of California. These chapters begin with less geologically complex areas, and later chapters assume that the reader has acquired the fundamental knowledge given in earlier chapters. However, it is possible to cover these chapters in a variety of orders and to eliminate some entirely during a semester, as I do during my own course. For courses with emphasis on southern California, I would advise beginning with the desert provinces and the Sierra Nevada before moving to the Transverse or Peninsular ranges chapters. In my opinion, it is important to cover the final two chapters (Part III) during any course on California geology because they unify the material presented in earlier chapters. A synthesis of the geologic development of California through time, presented in Chapter 18, is a good way to review the material in Part II. The final chapter of the book reviews the geologic processes that created hazards for California citizens, the geologic causes of those hazards, and the measures taken to mitigate and prepare for hazardous events. This is perhaps the most important "take-home lesson" for non-geologists who plan to live and work in California. NEW FOR THE SECOND EDITION Chapter Summaries:A list of major points or events appears at the end of each chapter. For chapters covering California''s geomorphic provinces, major geologic events are listed in chronological order. Province Highlights:Major geographic features, dominant rock types and tectonic setting, recent earthquakes, and major parks are summarized in a table at the beginning of chapters covering California''s geomorphic provinces. Simplified index maps and an improved map of the geomorphic provinces allow students to better locate themselves within the state. Web and Media Resources:An updated list of Web sites and videos is included in the reference section at the end of each chapter. Highlights of National Parks:Chapters covering California''s geomorphic provinces also highlight the geologic setting and major features of California''s 12 national parks and monuments, as well as selected state parks. Updated Maps and Diagrams:Newly available maps and diagrams, many from the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Geological Survey, help to clarify basic principles and California''s geologic history. More Coverage of Southern California Geology:Updates are included on tectonics, basement geology of southern California, and late Cenozoic tectonic rotation. Paleogeographic Maps:Generalized maps, provided by Dr. Ron Blakey of Northern Arizona University, show the tectonic development of California in geologic time. These maps appear in Chapter 18. New Topics:Additional topics covered in this edition include: Owens Lake and its impact on the environment, caves of the Sierra Nevada Province, Lake Tahoe, water supply controversies in southern California, groundwater contamination by perchlorate, vernal pools, tsunami hazards along the California coast, the Hector Mine earthquake, and the St. Francis dam disaster. Slide Set:Also available with the new edition is a slide set of 50 slides from locations throughout California, which illustrate various geologic processes discussed in the book. Contact your local Prentice Hall representative to obtain a set.

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