State Geology Magazine Mines Variety of Earthy Topics

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Associated Press

If you’re fascinated by rocks and fossils or if you’re a homeowner worried about earthquake, volcano or landslide hazards, the state publishes a magazine you might like.

“California Geology” is a magazine well known to scientists, teachers and hobbyists, but the state Conservation Department would like to tap a broader audience.

“Some of the articles, we have to face it, are not the thing for everyone,” says editor Mary Woods, referring to technical material about minerals and land formations.


But she also points to other recent articles of general interest on how homeowners can prepare for earthquakes, what buildings are safest in earthquakes and what might happen if a big tremor hit San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Help for Homeowner

The December issue, she says, includes an article on landslides in the San Francisco Bay area, “How You Can Judge if Your House Is in Danger.”

The magazine is published monthly by the department’s Division of Mines and Geology. A single issue is 50 cents and a subscription is $5 a year. It is also available in many libraries.

The 9,000 paid subscribers are mostly people in the earth sciences, such as geologists, teachers and hobbyists, and Woods says she is trying to attract more people.

“We like to feel we’re acquainting the people with geology. It really is a vital force in our lives and in the life of the state,” she says.

Wide Range of Topics

The Conservation Department describes itself as “the state’s earth resources steward,” dealing with seismology, soils, minerals, geothermal energy, petroleum and natural gas and open agricultural space. It was established in 1927 as the Department of Natural Resources, but its name was changed in 1961. The department’s jobs include conservation of oil and gas resources, mineral resources and prime agricultural land and soils; geologic analysis of hazards such as earthquakes and toxic waste disposal; and development of offshore oil and gas policies.


The department’s magazine was begun 39 years ago as “Mineral Information Service.” But in the late 1960s, the name was changed “because of the increased interest in geologic hazards,” she says.

Five on Staff

Woods, herself a registered geologist, has been editor since 1976. She and her staff of four put out the magazine, using articles contributed by the department’s geologists, university professors or outside teachers or science people, she says.

The April, 1985, issue, honoring Earthquake Preparedness Week in the middle of that month, devoted several articles to the shaky subject. An article by Vivian Gratton, a geologist with the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley, described a state project to create school classes to teach about earthquakes.

Another article, by four state geologists, listed in detail what is likely to happen if a massive earthquake strikes the San Andreas Fault near Los Angeles or San Francisco. The article concluded that telephone, transportation, water and electricity service would be disrupted in both cities, even in areas not heavily damaged, hampering rescue efforts.

The issues also include book reviews and “California Geology Trivia.”

One such trivia question: Since the San Andreas fault is shifting 2 centimeters a year, when will Los Angeles reach San Francisco?

The answer: In 25 million years.