This is My Valley

I live in the Santa Clara Valley, which sits at the south end of the San Francisco Bay in California, USA.  Most people are more familiar with this place as “Silicon Valley” because of all the high-tech work done here.  And as you can see from the Google Earth snapshot below, it is pretty built up.

Santa Clara Valley and surrounding mountains

Google Earth snapshot of the Santa Clara Valley with the surrounding mountains.

South and west of the valley are the Santa Cruz Mountains; the Diablo Range is to the east.  We’re not talking high mountains here, think about 4000 feet (1200 meters) or thereabouts at the highest points.  Most of our rain comes in storms that travel west to east, so there’s a significant orographic effect across this area. You can see it in the colors;  the Santa Cruz Mountains are quite heavily forested, but only the western edge of the Diablo Range gets enough rain to support a lot of foliage.  Further east is grassland with occasional oak trees.  That’s because the Santa Cruz mountains grab those incoming rainclouds and squeeze as much as they can out of them, before letting the remnants sail over the valley to the Diablo Range.  (Okay, that’s not the most scientific of explanations, but you get the idea.)

But I digress.  Here’s a very simple geologic map of the area, shamelessly stolen from my MS thesis:

Santa Clara Valley with bedrock/alluvium and faults

Here’s a very simple geologist’s view of the Santa Clara Valley and the surrounding mountains.

GUAD, CCOC, STPK. WLLO, and MGCY are the names of wells.  I studied sand cored from those wells for my thesis, examining sand samples taken from different depths and looking at spatial and temporal differences, and asked what kind of story they told about the last 800,000 years of valley formation.  But that isn’t the subject of this post, so you can ignore them.

“Quaternary alluvium” are alluvial deposits mostly dumped by the streams that cross the valley.  Of course, these deposits are pretty much lying under asphalt and concrete and buildings now.  Streams mostly run in concrete or agggregate-lined channels.  “Bedrock” isn’t necessarily raw exposed rock; if it were, none of that greenery in the first picture would be established.  These are places where the soils are thin, there actually are a lot of exposed rocks, and while stuff can grow it’s not growing on meters or kilometers of alluvium.  I’ll talk about that more in a bit.

I do want to point out the red lines.  Faults: we’ve got ‘em!  The San Andreas Fault is pretty famous, but the entire valley is riddled with faults.  And this is a simplified map; if I’d plotted ever minor fault there’d be very little but red lines all over the place.  Some like the San Andreas Fault, the Silver Creek Fault, and the Calaveras Fault, are primarily right-lateral strike-slip faults.  That means the rocks to either side of the fault are sliding past each other.  Being right-lateral, if you stand on one side of the fault, the rocks on the other side are moving to your right.  The other faults are primarily thrust faults; that is, rock is pushing up over other rock.  Now, just to complicate things, most faults have both left-right and up-down motion.  So the local strike-slip faults also have a little bit of up/down motion going on, and the local thrust faults have a little bit of slipping going on.  Nature absolutely refuses to be categorized simply.

So what’s that line across the picture, with the ends labeled A and AA?  It’s the line of a geologic cross section.  This picture is in my thesis, but I shamelessly stole it (with correct attribution of course) from a USGS paper.  (Don’t worry, I’ll put all the relevant references at the end of the post.)

Santa Clara Valley geological cross section

Here’s what’s going on underground along line A-AA from the previous picture.

To fully explain everything that’s going on in this diagram would take a whole ‘nother blog post.  But it’s really instructive. (Elevation, by the way, is based on sea level.)  That skinny yellow bit at the top?  That’s no older than 1.8 million years, and lots of it is a good sight younger than that.  But the Cupertino and Evergreen alluvial basins are much older, on the order of 5 or 10 million years for the Evergreen Basin, and maybe as much as 20 million years for the Cupertino basin.  I’m guessing a bit here, I haven’t researched the basins, and I’m not sure there’s much literature on them anyhow.  But the point is that they’ve been having streams run through them and dropping sediment for a fairly long time.  The other rocks, the Franciscan Complex, the Coast Range Ophiolite, and the Great Valley Group (GV) are much older, and formed during the Mesozoic when the Sierra Nevada mountains were volcanoes, dinosaurs pottered about, and this whole area was under water.

(I did tell you that the Silver Creek and Calaveras Faults were primarily strike-slip faults, didn’t I?  But here in this picture I show arrows indicating up/down motion.  This is the “bit of up/down motion” I was talking about.)

That middle section in the picture, between the Cupertino and Evergreen basins, is informally known as the Basement High.  There’s a lot of evidence that 800,000 years ago  it was exposed rock happily being rained on or snowed on and then being eroded into that Quaternary alluvium.  But by 400,000 years ago it was covered up by alluvium.  There’s only one remnant of it left exposed today, a hill in the middle of the valley bristling with transmission towers.

Welcome to my valley.  Some day I may show you a real geologic map of those mountains, and explain where the rocks came from. But that will have to wait for another day.

 

References:

Brabb, E.E., Graymer, R.W., and Jones, D.L., 2000, Geologic map and map database of the Palo Alto 30′ X 60′ quadrangle, California: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies 2332, scale 1:100,000.

Bryant, W. A. (compiler), 2005, Digital Database of Quaternary and Younger Faults from the Fault Activity Map of California, version 2.0: California Geological Survey Web Page, http://www.consrv.ca.gov/CGS/information/publications/ QuaternaryFaults_ver2.htm, accessed March 21, 2011.

Wentworth, C.M., Blake, M.C., Jr., McLaughlin, R.J., and Graymer, R.W., 1998, Preliminary geologic map of the San Jose 30 X 60 minute quadrangle, California: a digital database: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-795, scale 1:100,000.

Wentworth, C., Williams, R., Jachens, R., Graymer, R., and Stephenson, W., 2010, The Quaternary Silver Creek fault beneath the Santa Clara Valley, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 2010-1010.

 

 

 

Arizona’s Stupidest State Senator

Via PZ comes news of the latest Arizona politician to make an utter ass of his/herself:

Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), arguing in favor of a bill to allow uranium mining north of the Grand Canyon, casually says that the earth is 6,000 years old, and therefore a little uranium mining isn’t going to hurt anything.

[snip]

Outside of this fuckwit insisting (not once, but twice, in the course of 40 seconds) that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, I think my favorite part was when she said of the uranium mine, “and you’ll never even know the mine was there when they’re done.”

You want to take this:

And replace it with this:

Midnite Mine
An otherwise scenic view is scarred by the remains of uranium mining.

By Elly Hale, EPA
Midnite Mine
Wellpinit, Washington

And tell me we’ll “never even know the mine was there when they’re done”? Really? Because, you see, the research I found on uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area begs to differ.

Ms. Allen, you are a dumbshit. I’m ashamed my beautiful home state contains a state senator as stupid as you, and I do hope your district wakes the fuck up and cleans up that blight ASAP.

No Wonder There’s Global Warming

Shorter Joe Barton: Coke has carbon dioxide in it. Polar bears drink Coke. Therefore, carbon dioxide isn’t dangerous. Whee!

Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe Joe Barton wants to win the Most Fucktarded Congressman of the Year award:

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee began its markup of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The work is expected to continue through the week, as Republicans plan to stall movement on the bill by offering more than 400 amendments.

Discussing the bill on C-Span’s Washington Journal this morning, Rep. “Smokey Joe” Barton (R-TX) defended his head-in-the-sand approach to climate change by fundamentally misunderstanding the science, misstating the reality of carbon dioxide emissions, and mocking fuel-efficient cars. Some highlights:

– “I would also point out that CO2, carbon dioxide, is not a pollutant in any normal definition of the term. … I am creating it as I talk to you. It’s in your Coca-Cola, you’re Dr. Pepper, your Perrier water. It is necessary for human life. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, does not cause cancer, does not cause asthma.”

– “And something that the Democrat sponsors do not point out, a lot of the CO2 that is created in the United States is naturally created. You can’t regulate God. Not even the Democratic majority in the US Congress can regulate God.”

I’m at a loss for words. All I can say is, with reps like this, it’s no wonder we’ve got global warming problems. The burning stupidity alone is enough to raise the Earth’s temperature by at least 1° C.

Glenn Beck’s Contribution to Global Warming

I hope scientific studies demonstrate Beck’s a source of global warming pollution. It would be fun to see him shut down as an environmental hazard:

On his Fox News show today, comedian Glenn Beck interviewed Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) to mock the danger of global warming. In what he billed as an “Inconvenient Segment,” Beck argued that a “smoking gun” memo proves that the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding on the threat of global warming pollution is based on politics instead of science.

“It turns out, the truth that’s inconvenient is that it’s not like any of this stuff is based on, you know, science. It’s all politics,” Beck said of the danger of carbon pollution. He concluded:

By the way, just so you know, this show has won so many science awards, sometimes we get talking about high-falutin science things like this, and people are like, “What are you talkin’ about?” So let me break it down. Carbon dioxide is basically this. (Exhales.) Look at how much pollution I just put out.

Unless you eat fossil fuels, spewing hot air from one’s mouth is not a major source for pollution…except for Glenn Beck.

Indeed.

John Stossel Sez, “Endangered Species – It’s What’s For Dinner!”

John Stossel’s Plan to Save the Animals

John “Deny Young’ns the Vote!” Stossel once again competes for the title of World’s Biggest Dumbshit:

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a right-wing meme as gobsmackingly stupid as the one John Stossel was promoting last week on Fox, notably on Glenn Beck’s Friday show.

At ABC, the headline read:


John Stossel Says Killing Endangered Species Would Protect Them

Now, if you go read the text, it is a somewhat thought-provoking piece suggesting that the way to save certain endangered species — such as the tiger, which is a victim of poaching for its prized body parts — is to begin farming them. It’s worked with a handful of other species, such as the bison and the rhino.

But the headline — and the meme that Stossel pushed on Fox — was that the way to save endangered species is to farm and consume them.

Which is, perhaps, one of the most monumentally stupid ideas anyone’s ever proposed. The logical outcome of Stossel’s argument is that ultimately we need to begin farming all the planet’s wild animals.

Of course, the vast majority of endangered species are inedible and not particularly desired by humans to begin with, so that leaves them out of the farming equation.

Moreover, human consumption of a number of species — most notably sharks — is primarily responsible for their endangerment in the first place.

I wish I could say John Stossel is an endangered species, but alas, total fucking dumbshits are all too plentiful.

Good for Duke Energy

It’s nice to see a utility company stand up for the planet:

The National Association of Manufacturers is a right-wing trade organization that refuses to address — or even acknowledge — man-made global warming. Last month, it protested the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, stating that the “clean air laws” are supposed to only focus on “local pollutants.” It has also funded climate change denier groups and heavily lobbied against any efforts to curb emissions.

The organization’s resistance to change is getting to be too much for its members. Today, Bloomberg reports that Duke Energy Corp., which owns utilities in the Southeast and Midwest, announced that it won’t be renewing its membership with NAM, in part because of NAM’s refusal to address global warming:

“We are not renewing our membership in the NAM because in tough times, we want to invest in associations that are pulling in the same direction we are,” Duke Chief Executive Officer Jim Rogers said last month in an interview. The association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republicans “ought to roll up their sleeves and get to work on a climate bill, but quite frankly, I don’t see them changing.”

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke is a founding member of the United States Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups that seeks to influence legislation on greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The National Association of Manufacturers has opposed mandatory controls, arguing they will harm the economy.

A Duke spokesman also said that the company would like to see cap-and-trade legislation “happen this year if possible.”

I like this utility company.

Mother Nature Bitchslaps Cons

Global warming sucks, dunnit? But it does seem to have a poetic sense of timing this week.

In California, wildfires are demonstrating to Cons that fucking over California’s budget may not have been a wise thing to do:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started the week promoting Wildfire Awareness Week in events with fire officials, during which he suggested he might have to cut 1,700 firefighting jobs if voters reject the May 19 ballot measures.

He had another such event scheduled Thursday in Riverside. But an actual fire broke out midweek in Santa Barbara, forcing a change of plans.

Schwarzenegger appeared Thursday at the Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara instead. Instead of warning about firefighting cuts, he began reassuring Californians that the state would find the money to protect people.

Guess where they’re going to find that money. Go on, guess.

The governor said that because he declared a state of emergency this week for the Jesusita fire, the federal government would reimburse 75 percent of the state’s costs.

That federal government sure comes in handy when the piper demands his pay, doesn’t it just?

But that isn’t the most poetic of justice dealt this week. Mother Nature has a special place in her heart for Sarah Palin:

Because of a climate disaster, global warming skeptic Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) has been forced to cancel her attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The Wall Street Journal reports that an “unusually warm spring thaw in Alaska is causing some of the state’s worst flooding in decades, with rising rivers wiping out an entire village and bombarding another town with ice chunks as big as houses”:

Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday was scheduled to fly over the stricken areas after canceling a planned trip to the East Coast for primarily state business. The governor on Wednesday had declared a disaster for the flooded areas, including the Susitna River, which runs through her hometown of Wasilla near Anchorage.

The floods resulted from “a rare combination of unusually heavy winter snow and a spring warm-up over the past week that saw temperatures soar into the 70s — a good 20 degrees higher than normal for this time of year.”

Smell that schadenfreude. Mmm-mmm.

My heart goes out to the disaster victims. Here’s hoping it won’t take too much more of this before Cons start realizing that action to get global warming under control and programs in place to mitigate disasters are vitally necessary. What science, reason and general human decency couldn’t accomplish, perhaps embarrassment and personal impact will.

They Lied. Imagine That.

Heh. I’d like to see the pollution industry try to spin this one away:

The New York Times exposes an internal document (PDF) from the Global Climate Coalition, a group funded by the oil and auto industries, that shows that their own scientists were confirming the reality of human-caused global warming and the effects of greenhouse gasses as early as 15 years ago even while publicly trying to dispute that reality.

The document is from 1995 and it was a “primer” on the various issues being sent around to the auto companies for approval. It essentially admits that global warming is real and human-caused, that many of the counter-arguments are false and that we don’t yet have good enough predictive technology to know the full effects, especially in local areas. It begins by saying:

The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.

[snip]

The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change. Jastrow’s hypothesis about the role of solar variability and Michaels’ questions about the temperature record are not convincing arguments against any conclusion that we are currently experiencing warming as the result of greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words: global warming’s real, humans are the main factor in causing it. Suck on that, bitches.

Of course, it won’t change Big Pollution’s behavior. The polluters will still lie and moan and try to deny the science. They’ll still find greedy fucks willing to sell their souls for silver, and stupid fucks eager to believe. But it just got that much harder.

Kerry to Will: “Bring it on, Bitch!”

Welcome to Science Sunday, wherein we will deconstruct denialists, pummel presuppositionalists, and cap it off with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s absolute awesomeness.

First, the denialists.

George Will stands by his thoroughly-debunked column, and so does “editor” Fred Hiatt (can you really call someone an editor who refuses to edit?). In fact, Will’s spewing more lies, and Hiatt’s throwing down gauntlets, demanding people debate rather than decry his dear Georgie.

Be careful what you ask for, bitches:

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the first member of Congress to weigh in on George F. Will’s egregiously mendacious “global cooling” columns. In a Huffington Post column, Kerry delivers a withering critique of one of his “favorite intellectual sparring partners,” stepping up to the plate on behalf of science and scientists everywhere, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and White House Science Adviser John Holdren..

And if you think this column is some mealy-mouthed, polite political pablum, you’ve got another think coming. Kerry’s breathing fire. I swear he’s channeling Val Kilmer’s Halliday: “I’m your Huckleberry. That’s just my game.” Oh, hells, yes:

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see Will embracing the idea of recycling, but I’m very troubled that he is recycling errors of fact to challenge the science on global warming.

[snip]

Dragging up long-discredited myths about some non-existent scientific consensus about global cooling from the 1970s does no one any good. Except perhaps a bankrupt flat earth crowd. I hate to review the record and see that someone as smart as George Will has been doing exactly that as far back as 1992. And it’s especially troubling when the very sources that Will cites in his February 15th column draw the exact opposite conclusions and paint very different pictures than Will provides, as the good folks at ThinkProgress and Media Matters for America have demonstrated so thoroughly.

[snip]

No matter how the evidence has mounted over two decades — the melting of the arctic ice cap, rising sea levels, extreme weather — the flat earth caucus can’t even see what is on the horizon. In the old Republican Congress they even trotted out the author of Jurassic Park as an expert witness to argue that climate change is fiction. This is Stone Age science, and now that we have the White House and the Congress real science must prevail. It is time to stop debating fiction writers, oil executives and flat-earth politicians, and actually find the way forward on climate change.

[snip]

“Facts are stupid things,” Ronald Reagan once said. He was, of course, paraphrasing John Adams, who could have been talking about the science on global change when he said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Stubborn or stupid — lets have a real debate and lets have it now.

Oh, George Will, you’ve been served.

Hilzoy Takes WaPo to the Woodshed

This, my darlings, is a thing of beauty. To briefly recap: George Will, fact-challenged Washington Post columnist extraordinaire, recently penned a climate change denialist column so egregious in its errors that it nearly defies description. Days went by as we waited with baited breath for the WaPo to publish a correction. None was forthcoming. And then, a response!

I have also been following the various requests for comment from the Washington Post, and wondering when the Post might respond. Now they have:

“Thank you for your e-mail. The Post’s ombudsman typically deals with issues involving the news pages. But I understand the point you and many e-mailers are making, and for that reason I sought clarification from the editorial page editors. Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors. The University of Illinois center that Will cited has now said it doesn’t agree with his conclusion, but earlier this year it put out a statement that was among several sources for this column and that notes in part that “Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979,”

Best wishes,

Andy Alexander

Washington Post Ombudsman”

Until I read this, I had been under the impression that newspapers didn’t do as much fact-checking as magazines, because of deadline pressure; and I had imagined that the inaccuracies in George Will’s column might result from applying standards designed for reported stories to columns. But on reading that Will’s column had been subjected to a “multi-layer editing process”, and that this “process” had checked the facts “to the fullest extent possible”, I realized that I had been wrong. Naturally, I clicked the link Mr. Alexander provided, and read it. Did he? I don’t know what would be worse: that he did, and takes it to support Will, or that he didn’t take his job seriously enough to bother.

Hilzoy takes Mr. Alexander’s link, and beats him thoroughly with it. Then she continues the beating by reading the Science article Will quoted in defense of his indefensible position. Go witness. It’s a classic in the annals of correction, destined to go down in history as one of the most merciless trips to the woodshed in blogging history. She does the job that the WaPo’s “multilayer editing process” somehow found impossible.

It’s incredible to me that a national paper could not only publish something so insanely wrong on every level, but then claim they’d fact-checked it. Were I the Post, I’d be claiming an unprecidented breakdown in the editing process – it would be far less embarrassing than demonstrating that multiple people failed to read so much as the two most easily-accessed papers cited in Wills’ column, both of which take a howitzer to his conclusions.

Alas, one trip to the woodshed, even one as epic as this, will not be enough for the WaPo team. They need to be set back a grade and placed in special education for the clueless on climate change. Thankfully, a class is available, and it has a proven track record helping the climate change challenged wake up and smell the CO2.

Let us hope it can rescue the WaPo before they become the identical twin of the Moony Times.