Saturday, February 28, 2009


I tried to track down some more information on the New York Geological Survey.

It seems like there could be a better state presence to represent the interests of the citizens of New York concerning geologic hazards and resources. Perhaps this is being handled ok as is, or perhaps the existence of federal agencies like the USGS and entities like LCSN fill the gap.

There has been an historical association of the NYGS within the State Museum:
Our history of inquiry, discovery, and education began in 1836 when we were established as the State Geological and Natural History Survey. Over the years, we have grown into a major research and an educational institution dedicated to preserving New York's rich artistic, social, historical, and environmental legacies under the leadership of the New York State Education Department.
But, there also seems to have decreases in state funding in support of geology:

The Times Union (Albany, NY)
December 9, 1997
Quake-spotters feel tremors of apathy
Late on the afternoon of June 8, 1996, about 9.6 miles under the village of Altamont, the earth moved.
Only one person noticed.
''It should have been felt,'' said Walter Mitronovas, who discovered the earthquake when it registered 2.5 on one of two seismographs at the State Museum. ''But there was a thunderstorm at the same time. That probably explains it.''
As the state's seismologist, Mitronovas has spent nearly 20 years measuring the Earth when it moves. But when he retires next spring, the $ 61,500 position won't be filled.
Dr. Robert Fakundiny, a geologist who oversees the state Geological Survey, said a hiring freeze, lack of funding sources and a dwindling interest in Northeast earthquakes is to blame.
''Most people are now convinced the earthquake hazard is not high enough (in the Northeast) to warrant the continued funding,'' said Fakundiny.
''The last five years have been very quiet,'' said Mitronovas, 61. ''I'm not sure it's the quiet before the storm, though.''
Although the number and size of earthquakes in the Northeast is about 50 times lower than in California, Mitronovas said a quake here will have a wider damage pattern because of the type of soils in the Northeast and the under-ground rock patterns that would carry the shock waves further.
The state's seismology position was created in the early 1970s when Bethlehem Steel wanted to dispose of toxic waste in a deep well in western New York. Because a similar operation in Colorado showed the possibility of manmade earthquakes, a system of seismographs was installed by the state Geological Survey and Lamont-Doherty, now known as the Earth Observatory of Columbia University. That system picked up other earthquakes in the Wyoming County town of Dale, about 100 miles away from the toxic disposal site and caused by a deep well salt-mining operation.
''When that (salt) operation was shut down, the earthquakes stopped,'' said Fakundiny. Curious, the scientists decided to experiment by triggering their own earthquakes at the site. When Columbia, fearing it could be liable for potential damages caused by these earthquakes, withdrew from the project, the state decided to hire its own seismologist.
The first seismologist left in the late 1970s as that series of experiments wound down. However, the state was immersed in contentious hearings on siting nuclear power plants,and wanted its own expert to gauge the potential of earthquake damage to reactors.
Mitronovas was in Switzerland and wanted to return to the United States. He arrived in February 1978 to set up and monitor the state's seismic network. At one point in the early 1980s, there were networks operated by the state, Lamont, the U.S. Geological Survey and a consortium of power companies reaching about 50 machines scattered around the state.

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