Geoscience in Your State: Washington

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Cover of Geoscience Policy State Factsheet. Image credit: AGI

What is Geoscience?

Geoscience is the study of the Earth and the complex geologic, marine, atmospheric, and hydrologic processes that sustain life and the economy. Understanding the Earth’s surface and subsurface, its resources, history, and hazards allows us to develop solutions to critical economic, environmental, health, and safety challenges.

By the numbers: Washington

12,118 geoscience employees (excludes self-employed)1

1.53 billion gallons/day: total groundwater withdrawal3

$901 million: value of nonfuel mineral production in 20174

132 total disaster declarations, including 78 fire, 28 flood, and 16 severe storm disasters (1953-2017)⁶

$34.4 million: NSF GEO grants awarded in 201714

Your State Source for Geoscience Information

Washington Geological Survey
1111 Washington St
SE Olympia, WA 98504

    Agencies Working on Geoscience Issues in washington

    Washington Department of Ecology

    Ecology is Washington’s environmental protection agency. The mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s land, air, and water for current and future generations.

    Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources

    The Washington DNR, of which DGER is a division, informs the public, government, and industry about the consequences of geologic events and about the nature of the land. DNR monitors, assesses, and researches the causes of earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes--critical information for both government and private sector planners working to reduce the human and financial effects of natural disasters.

    Washington Emergency Management Division

    During state emergencies, EMD manages the State Emergency Operations Center located on Camp Murray, near Tacoma, and coordinates the response to ensure help is provided to those who need it quickly and effectively. 

    Case Studies & Factsheets

    Cover of AGI Factsheet 2018-004 - Present Day Climate Change

    Climate Science 101 Climate is the average of weather conditions over several decades.1,2 Geoscientists monitor modern climate conditions (1880 A.D. to present) in part by taking direct measurements of weather data (i.e., air temperature, rainfall and snowfall, wind speed, cloudiness, and so on...


    What grows in arid, sandy soils? How do these soils become dust? Many small organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, grow among the sand and silt particles in dry valley and desert soils. At the soil’s surface, these organisms often form biological webs (“microbiotic crusts”) that keep small sand...


    What is a Dry Well? A dry well is a well that is used to transmit surface water underground and is deeper than its width at the surface (see image, below). Most dry wells are 30 to 70 feet deep and 3 feet wide at the surface. They are lined with perforated casings and can be filled with gravel...

    Cover of AGI Factsheet 2018-003--Using Geologic Maps to Reduce Landslide Risk

    Geologic Maps and Landslide Hazards A geologic map is key to understanding landslide risk. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and numerous state geological surveys around the nation prioritize the mapping of landslide-prone areas. Understanding landslide risk is crucial in making decisions around...


    More than just volcanic eruptions Volcanic eruptions are a serious hazard. But at many stratovolcanoes in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Alaska, landslides and debris flows can be just as dangerous. Some of these - especially volcanic mudflows (lahars) - are directly triggered by...

    Fig. 1. Although Glacier Peak normally can not be seen from any urban areas, this active volcano periodically erupts in an explosive catastrophic manner that could affect the lower part of the populated Skagit River Valley. Credit: D. Mullineaux, USGS

    Defining the Problem Active volcanoes, such as Glacier Peak (Fig. 1), pose a variety of potential hazards. Like Mount Rainier (Fig. 2) and Mount St. Helens, the history of Glacier Peak includes explosive eruptions and lahars. Eruptions, earthquakes, or precipitation can trigger landslides that...


    Introduction Dry wells improve stormwater drainage and aquifer recharge by providing a fast, direct route for rainwater to drain deep into underlying sediment and rock. Dry wells are most common in the western U.S. where clay or caliche layers slow down the natural drainage of water into...

    Cover of AGI Factsheet 2018-002-Geologic Mapping and Public Health

    Using Geologic Maps to Protect Public Health Geologic maps can be used to understand and mitigate public health risks across the US, in addition to their more traditional use in resource and infrastructure decisions. Geologic maps can show the location of naturally occurring hazardous materials...

    GOLI Online Courses

    GOLI Course: Ocean Acidification Impacts on Fisheries; Image credit: NOAA
    Course Type: GOLI Online Course

    As the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased over recent history, so has the acidity of oceans worldwide. The changing acidity of the ocean has many ecological and economic impacts, one of the most serious being its effects on marine life and fisheries. The impact of ocean...

    GOLI Course: Communicating Cascadia's Earthquake Risk. Image Credit: FEMA / Photo by Mustafa Lazkani
    Course Type: GOLI Online Course

    Geoscience research is at the forefront of characterizing the earthquake risks associated with the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest. This course covers the science and its implications for policy decisions and resiliency efforts.