Future plate movement prediction by people renown geoscientist Christopher Scotese that PALEOMAP.... <+> (Credit: scotese.com)


It"s other we"ve every heard prior to "The next large California earthquake and the entire statewill fallinto the ocean" or some variation thereof. Regardless of the geology and also physicsthat just exist in Dwayne Johnson movies, this will certainly nothappen for a number of reasons.

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Geology is a relatively brand-new science, only really gainingmomentum a couple of hundred year ago, with a lot come learn and tremendous advancements in the ar in brief time periods. Just like mostscientific fields, the general populace aren"t also informed ~ above the current research and data the supports ours predictions and also understanding. This enables for movies and fiction to perpetuate unrealistic scenarios and also the general populace to absence the ability to fully discern wherein Hollywood ends and also science begins.

Imagine friend watched a movie whereby aliens might take end a host human"s body, grow to adolescence, and also burst the end of the organize human every without the organize knowing it was incubating an alien. The basic public"s expertise of biology, astrobiology, and also human suffer naturally measures in and raises alarms that this is plainly fictitious v no clinical or colloquial base. ~ above the other hand, imagine a movie through which an enormous earthquake triggers parts of California to fall into the ocean, separating the state and also triggering a substantial tsunami. The basic public"s expertise likely leads them to believe this is overly exaggerated however that it can in reality happen in a less dramatic fashion. This is despite cleargeologic and also scientific evidence and also understanding the this would not happen.


If you"re still not convinced, i intend come cover a coupleof the vital reasons why the scientific ar has no comes to that California will break away from the US and also fall into the ocean.

The Nature Of southern California"s Faults

The san Andreas error system, and associated fault systems within southern and main California are a result of the Pacific Plate relocating northwest along the north American Plate. The majority of southerly Californiafaults space strike-slip, meaning they move approximately parallel come one one more in opposite direction with tiny vertical motion.


example of a strike-slip fault in Kaikoura, brand-new Zealand from the current 2016 earthquake. (Credit:... <+> Reece Lonsert; linkedin.com/in/reece-lonsert-1415543a)


Althoughstrike-slip faults have some vertical offset, that is insignificantcompared to the horizontal offset. Therefore, the basic nature that the san Andreas fault system does not permit fordrop and also subsequent sloughing off of land on the western next of the fault. The land to the west the the right-lateral fault will significantly move northward follow me California"s coast as it renders its method eventually come Alaska.

The average annual rate the Pacific Plate movies in relationship to the north American key is 46 mm per year to the northwest (similar come the price your fingernails grow). This is an average plate movement, vice versa, a large earthquake in the mountain Andreas fault could create significantly bigger localized movement on the stimulate of tensof feet in seconds. The nature of activity of the san Andreas fault system way Los Angeles will certainly one daybe surrounding to san Francisco. However, it does not enable for a substantial drop or from the west movement compelled to have actually California "fall into the ocean."

The Nature of California"s key Boundaries

California sit uniquely at the intersection the two significant plates, the Pacific Plate and North American Plate. The key intersection operation up the western shore of north America every the means to Alaska, v the Juan de Fucaplate interjecting that remnants along the Pacific Northwest. The fault activity impacting California and also sliding that northward is a direct result of the two massive plates moving in various directions family member to one another.


This activity will continue to drag parts of California with it northward. However, the bowl boundary adheres to the western coastline of north America and also thus any type of landmass "stuck" top top the west edge of the plate boundary will be dragged north along the west shore of phibìc America.

Eventually the Juan de Fuca bowl will proceed to disappearunderneath the north American plate and the whole stretch the the west coastline will it is in the Pacific key abutting versus the north American Plate. This permits for the northward motion of western California along the shore until that reaches Alaska. For visualization take a look in ~ the excellent future global plate projections make by Christopher Scotese.

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It"s no to to speak the next large earthquake in California won"t have terrible effects, yet there are physical limitations to what the fault motion will and also has the potential todo. Geology is a scientific research of perspective,millions the years and also potential energy release the dimension of an atom bomb. Despite the exaggeration perspective and scales that geologists occupational on, itmust be tempered by realism in the confront of publicly education and also information.


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I to be a geologist passionate about sharing Earth"s intricacies v you. I received my phd from duke University whereby I learned the geology and also climate that the Amazon. Ns am the founder of science Trends, a leading source of science news and analysis on whatever from climate change to cancer research. Let"s connect