Why Geology Matters: Decoding the Past, Anticipating the Future

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Univ of California Press, May 2, 2011 - Nature - 285 pages
Volcanic dust, climate change, tsunamis, earthquakes—geoscience explores phenomena that profoundly affect our lives. But more than that, as Doug Macdougall makes clear, the science also provides important clues to the future of the planet. In an entertaining and accessibly written narrative, Macdougall gives an overview of Earth’s astonishing history based on information extracted from rocks, ice cores, and other natural archives. He explores such questions as: What is the risk of an asteroid striking Earth? Why does the temperature of the ocean millions of years ago matter today? How are efforts to predict earthquakes progressing? Macdougall also explains the legacy of greenhouse gases from Earth’s past and shows how that legacy shapes our understanding of today’s human-caused climate change. We find that geoscience in fact illuminates many of today’s most pressing issues—the availability of energy, access to fresh water, sustainable agriculture, maintaining biodiversity—and we discover how, by applying new technologies and ideas, we can use it to prepare for the future.
 

Contents

Set in Stone
1
The geological timescale
10
Sedimentary layers spanning the PermianTriassic boundary
19
Building Our Planet
21
The interior structure of the Earth
33
Close Encounters
35
5
40
Map of Chicxulub Crater Yucatán Mexico
47
Wandering Plates
81
A precariously balanced rock California
107
Shaky Foundations
110
Reading LIPs
188
Restless Giants
206
Swimming Crawling and Flying toward the Present
225
Why Geology Matters
249
Bibliography and Further Reading
269

Sizefrequency diagram for impacts on the Earth
54
The asteroid Eros
61
The First Two Billion Years
63

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About the author (2011)

Doug Macdougall is Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything; Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages (both from UC Press); and A Short History of Planet Earth.

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