October 5, 2008

Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains A New Approach to Paleoseismology

By Meigs, Andrew

Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains A New Approach to Paleoseismology. By WILLIAM BULL Oxford: Blackwell, 2007, 316 pp. Pounds 39.99 ISBN 978 1 4051 5479 9 This new book, by the author of the classic textbook Ceomorphic Response to Climate Change, provides Professor William Bull's perspective on active tectonics, surface processes, paleoseismology and active topography. Organised around six chapters ('Scrunch and stretch bedrock uplift'; 'Concepts for studies of rising mountains'; 'Mountain fronts'; 'Tectonic activity classes of mountain fronts'; 'Fault scarps'; and 'Analyses of prehistoric shaking'), the writing style is conversational and familiar and the text is sprinkled with numerous vignettes from the author's long and distinguished career. Any textbook author faces a nearly impossible task when tackling a subject as broad as active tectonics and topography. They must choose (strike a balance?) between providing an up-to-date, comprehensive overview of the literature and providing detailed descriptions of a relatively small number of illustrative examples. Tectonic Ceomorphology of Mountains takes the later approach. Exhaustive descriptions complemented by abundant simple, clear illustrations form the core of each chapter. I was disappointed, however, because Professor Bull draws heavily from his own published and unpublished work as well as from the theses, dissertations and publications of his students to illustrate the major concepts. Whereas these studies have, in many cases, contributed substantively to active tectonic science, the choice to favour these studies has the unfortunate consequence that many key papers, emerging methodologies, and current concepts are not covered. Thus one has to be an expert in the fields of geomorphology, earthquake geology, paleoseismology and other relevant fields to properly evaluate the limited scope and content of every chapter. There are inaccuracies and editorialisations in every chapter that limit the relevance and timeliness of this text. The book does provide useful summaries of some concepts, but students, academics, and professionals will be better served by referring to the texts Paleoseismology (McCalpin 1996), The Geology of Earthquakes (Yeats et al. 1997), and Tectonic Ceomorphology (Burbank and Anderson 2001) if they want to have a comprehensive overview of active tectonics, tectonic geomorphology, and paleoseismology. Tectonic Ceomorphology of Mountains is not an overview of the current state-of-the-art in active tectonics and paleoseismology, but it does contain enough good information to provide a useful supplement to other texts and the literature.


Burbank D W and Anderson R S 2001 Tectonic geomorphology Blackwell Science, Malden

McCaplin J 1996 Paleoseismology Academic Press, San Diego

Yeats R S, Sieh K and Allen C R 1997 The geology of earthquakes OUP, New York

ANDREW MEICS, Oregon State University

Copyright Royal Geographical Society Sep 2008

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