Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Upsides and Downsides of Mountains

I’ve lived in Western Washington for a total of twenty-one years, so it’s really easy for me to answer this month’s Accretionary Wedge (#29!) as posed by Ann at Ann's Musings on Geology & Other Things: "What Geological features about the area you call 'home' do you love? and what do you not like?"

Washington can be divided very roughly into thirds: Eastern Washington, home to the Missoula Flood-carved Columbia River Flood Basalts; Western Washington, with thick glacial deposits and steep stratovolcanoes in the Cascade Mountains; and the Olympic Penninsula, which is an accretionary wedge, with the uplifted Olympic Mountains.

My favorite geological features are the volcanoes. These result from the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath the North American plate:
Map, Plate Tectonics and the Cascade Range, [18K,GIF]

Cascades Volcano Observatory


Mt. Rainier


Mt. St. Helens


Mt. Adams


Now, my least favorite geological features of Western Washington are also the Cascades, because they help cause the massive, constant amounts of rain.


The Olympics create a rain shadow, but they aren’t so high that all the moisture condenses and falls: the rest is carried over the Puget Sound. As it does so, it picks up more moisture, which then condenses as it rises over the Cascades, dropping all over Western Washington.

That’s why it rains 365 days out of the year (or at least feels like it!)

Thus, my Theory of Seattle: the rain nourishes the trees and shrubbery, which grows profusely and blocks out the light. Between the rain and the trees, everyone wants to stay indoors – thus, the major IT industry begins. Between the masses of commuters and the nasty dim weather, rush hour runs rampant. Since everyone codes late into the night and has to get up early to beat the traffic, the immense coffee culture is started. Thus, the population has a Vitamin D deficiency, stares at computers constantly, is always struck in traffic, and gets regularly strung out on coffee, resulting in perpetual depression and tweakiness. Thus leading to the reign of 90s grunge music, which also contributes to the high suicide rate.

That’s my theory, at least. And I’m sticking to it.


I’ll be honest: I’ve had my fill of the dreary rain and endless rush hour.

So, I’m going to study Geology at Boise State University next year!


Ann said...

Thank you for submitting this for Accretionary Wedge #29. Its now up and posted at


Gaelyn said...

Congrats on going to Boise!

Well said. Living in western WA can be a love/hate relationship.

Steve Kluge said...

Love your "Theory of Seattle"....
(BTW, my geoscience blog is here)