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Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault 1st Edition

58 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1605984957
ISBN-10: 1605984957
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Most of us have heard of the San Andreas Fault, but we don’t know much about it, beyond the fact that it’s a big fault line in California. Author Dvorak capably fills in the blanks. Plate tectonics gave us the fault, the North American plate rubbing up against the Pacific basin plate and causing a fracture in the planet’s surface from one end of California to the other. And here’s the really troubling thing: California, known for its sometimes very severe quakes, hasn’t experienced one like the San Francisco quake in 1906 for about a century. The state, Dvorak warns, is overdue for something called an earthquake storm—a series of quakes, triggered by a single massive event, spreading out over a large geographic area and playing out over several years. This is a relatively new seismological theory about earthquakes, and how much readers accept about Dvorak’s book depends on their willingness to accept a theory that is still in the early stages of development. Still, this is a fascinating look at what could be in store for the country if proponents of the theory are correct. --David Pitt


“Dvorak has done earthquake science sterling service by writing what is unarguably the best, the most comprehensive and compellingly readable book about the great fault, America's 800 mile long seismic danger zone, that will one day affect all of our lives.” (Simon Winchester, New York Times Bestselling author of The Crack at the Edge of the World and Krakatoa)

“Much of their enlightenment occurred in California, and the author turns up half a dozen intrepid, eccentric and largely unknown geologists (Grove Gilbert, Andrew Lawson, Charles Richter, Harry Fielding Reid) whose insights began to converge after the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. A fine popular primer on the subject, lucidly written and no more technical than necessary.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A lively key to understanding the nature of faults, quakes, the San Andreas in particular, and the scientists who made stormy careers out of investigating some of the most elusive geologic mysteries in history.” (Midwest Book Review)

“A welcome addition. Its chief strength lies in combining the lives and personalities of key geologists and seismologists, such as Lawson, Charles Richter, John Tuzo Wilson and Kerry Sieh, with the theoretical essentials and practical details of their scientific work, so that the former really do illuminate the latter.” (Geoscientist Magazine)

“A massive earthquake is overdue at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. Conditions are right for the Big One to hit a 100-mile segment of the fault that would be felt from San Diego to Los Angeles. But the problem is being able to pinpoint when the quake may strike. . . .” (NPR)

“The real strength of Earthquake Storms is the clear and comprehensive treatment of geology as well as history, and offers a fascinating up-close look at the often overlooked people and stories behind science. Lastly, the book leaves readers in California with a bottom line as sobering as it is unassailable: We might not know exactly what storms lie ahead, but during all of our lifetimes, we have only ever known the lull.” (Susan Hough, former director of the Seismology Laboratory at CalTech - EARTH Magazine)

“Scientist and author John Dvorak recounts California’s precarious relationship with the tectonic boundary between the Pacific and North American plates. Recommended follow-up reading for all Californians includes any manual on surviving the end of civilization or the zombie apocalypse.” (Los Angeles Magazine)

“Eventually such a release will result in a major earthquake. Dvorak posits that the last 100 years in California have been relatively quiet seismologically, but he notes other major fault systems, such as in Turkey, that were quiet for a period and then released their accumulated stress in a series of major earthquakes―a seismic storm. These storms can last for decades or centuries until the stress is released; the San Andreas Fault may be ripe for such a series. A must read for earthquake buffs―and West Coast residents.” (Library Journal)

Earthquake Storms reads like good sci-fi, with colorful characters making startling discoveries.” (The Honolulu Star)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; 1 edition (February 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605984957
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605984957
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Dvorak, PhD, has studied volcanoes and earthquakes around the world for the United States Geological Survey, first at Mount St. Helens in 1980, then a series of assignments in Hawaii, Italy, Indonesia, Central America and Alaska. In addition to dozens of papers published in scientific journals, Dvorak has written cover stories for Scientific American, Astronomy and Physics Today. He has taught geology and astronomy at the University of Hawaii and has lectured at the University of Washington in Seattle, University of California at Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Institution and the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

His main writing interest is the history of science. And the longest love in his life has been for mathematics.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dana Keish on March 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I simply love books like this. I love when an author takes a single event, idea or thing and gives an in depth study on the subject. Author Dvorak has produced a brilliant study on the San Andreas fault, which makes California one of the most earthquake prone places on earth. He concentrates not just on the geology (which is covered in detail), but also the scientists who were instrumental in determining what exactly was taking place beneath the earth to cause such devastation. Along the way, you learn about how various theories were postulated and then either confirmed or denied by evidence found sometimes even years later after the theories were discussed. You get biographical data on the scientists which makes their discoveries fit into the context of their lives.

John Dvorak certainly has a knack for writing about science. The difficult concepts are laid out beautifully, allowing the non-scientific reader able to follow along and understand better the myriad of forces at work underneath our feet. I especially appreciated the pacing and layout of the book, which built upon concepts previously discussed. As one who visits California often, I plan on checking out some of the various places where the fault is visible and the effects of the numerous earthquakes can still be seen. I recommend this book highly to anyone who wants a better understanding of earthquakes. But what makes the book special is how the author shows how various theories were built and expanded upon by numerous scientists within the last 100 years. It brings the science alive and demonstrates that it truly does take a "village" to develop lasting scientific knowledge.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Geology Maven on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an unevenly written but generally informative review of earthquakes in California's historical record. Especially useful are his descriptions of the various localities where one might see various aspects of the many major and those less well known faults actively sliding their right lateral way to the northwest. I was disappointed that not one map was included in the book although scores of localities were described. This was a real drawback and a major reason why I gave the book only 3 stars. While I can follow maps easily and as a geologist track the formations and faults relatively easily on a published map, I think the interested layman would have more difficulty. This is exacerbated by the author frequently uses distance terms like "a few miles" when it could be 5 or 50 miles. The photos are nice, but maps would've been better.
My other beef was the author's utter lack of knowledge on the oil industry. His few comments and stories indicate that he really didn't talk to anyone who knows the industry, or read any of the many books on the topic or the geophysics used, a topic of special interest for this book, since earthquake detection and ground motion studies are integral to many aspects of the industry. Since he didn't mind lifting entire chunks from other people's books in order to write this one (including the venerable Amos Nur, a "god" in the geophysical world), why didn't he have one proper source for the petroleum industry? For example, hydraulic fracturing does not target kerogen. Kerogen is a precursor of mature hydrocarbon.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the book, especially the chapter he lifted from his intro to the John McPhee book, and the summary of Amos Nur's book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Wayne James on February 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I have been working on a documentary about the southern San Andreas Fault in California and what the next earthquake(s) could entail. This book was everything I was expecting to read and more. It is jammed with facts and tidbits of information from all kinds of sources, and it is all well researched. I found myself getting wrapped up in it and not being able to put it down, and that is unlike me. The author explores many plausible outcomes and courses of events for the future of California. If you are interested in the film, you can find more information on Facebook or Twitter with a search for NextQuake.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book and learned several things. But, don't attempt to read this book without an atlas or better yet a tablet at hand. There are no maps in the book, and the author is constantly referring to small towns and obscure places in California. If the book included maps and diagrams it would be FAR better.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve G on February 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and fascinating look at earthquakes. Author John Dvorak spends a lot of effort not only digesting the science but also looking into the lives of the scientists involved. A lot of the book is a general look at earthquakes but with a lot of examples from the San Andreas fault. Not having lived in California, I had to have maps handy. Indeed I read most of this book on my computer so that I could frequently check maps. I thought that this would lessen enjoyment of the book but it didn’t. Instead I ended up with a long list of places that I want to visit, hopefully not during an earthquake. The only weakness of the book was the final chapter which discussed so many faults and places that I just didn't bother looking them all up. I recommend this book to anyone interested in science especially for the reader who lives in California as Dvorak gives directions for finding relevant landmarks.
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