Archive for the ‘other’ Category

Salt weathering (tafoni)

11 May 2014

San Francisco does a few geological things better than Oakland. Here’s one.


Salt air, specifically salt spray, causes this dramatic pitting in sandstone of the breakwater out by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, on the way to the Wave Organ. San Francisco simply gets more of that raw sea wind that splashes seawater onto the rocks. As the brine dries out, salt crystals grow in the pore spaces and gradually pry the mineral grains apart. This process, called cavernous or honeycomb weathering, affects inland sites where the rock itself contains some salt (Mount Diablo and Las Trampas Ridge have good examples), but along the coast it acts much faster and more pervasively. The hollows are often called tafoni, however that term is properly used for large hollows. Little ones are called alveoli.

You might see some of this in Oakland rocks, but only down in the port, if there. I can’t think of a good example. The riprap boulders in our port are mostly hard igneous rocks that are much more impervious to water.

Incident at Fontaine

11 December 2013

I want to say at the outset that I am not a licensed geologist, only a writer with a degree in the field. But when I read in today’s paper about a ruptured gas line in East Oakland that started a fire at the intersection of Golf Links Road and Fontaine Street on Tuesday, this was the first thing that came to mind: the Hayward fault. The intersection in question is just to the right of the word “Viejo.”


Perhaps those of you who accompanied me last year on a tour of the Hayward fault in this area thought the same thing.

The paper reported, “An investigation into what caused the fire was underway Tuesday and could take several days to complete, according to PG&E.” Let’s keep an eye out on what they report.

Piedmont sulfur spring

8 September 2013

A comment to one of my posts talked about the sulfur springs of Bushy Dell Creek, in Piedmont Park. I said I couldn’t detect any and the commenter said where to look. So a few weeks ago I looked and found this small example.


It’s just a trickle, but it offers a whiff of sulfur gas. More tellingly, it supports gray filaments of sulfur bacteria, seen here in closeup.


These look like pollution, and I guess in our context that’s what they are. But whole microbial ecosystems center on a molecular economy of sulfur, oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. They’re mostly hidden underground near sulfur-bearing minerals, but here and there they get flushed out into the light.


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