Will Los Angeles Break Away from California?

No, California is not going to fall into the ocean. Despite rumors that a major earthquake will cause the state to break into the ocean, there's nothing to worry about. This is impossible to occur from an event in the San Andrés fault, due to its type of fault. California is firmly planted in the upper part of the Earth's crust at a location where it spans two tectonic plates.

The idea that part of California will separate was probably inspired by the San Andres fault, since the fault crosses California and one part of the state is on the Pacific plate and another on the North American plate. Powerful earthquakes frequently occur along the west coast of the United States because the region is close to a boundary between two tectonic plates. If you've read How Earthquakes Work, you'll know that the Earth's surface is made up of large, rigid plates that move slowly over the layer of the mantle below. At the boundaries between the plates, several things can happen.

The Pacific plate and the North American plate simply smash against each other: one creeps slowly to the northwest and the other to the southeast.Friction builds up along faults because the two sides come together very tightly. If the frictional force exceeds the forces that move the earth, the two sides will lock up and stop creeping. When this occurs, stress builds up along the fault line until the force of motion is large enough to overcome the frictional force. The pieces of land are then suddenly placed in place, releasing a large amount of energy that causes earthquakes in the Earth's crust.Many scientists estimate that there is enough tension built up along some closed faults in California, so that when they finally slip, the earthquake will be extremely powerful.

The Hayward Fault is of particular concern to these scientists because it extends below densely populated areas in and around Los Angeles.If those plates move in different directions, it makes sense that two parts of California also move in different directions. And this is, in fact, the case. But even in a massive change along the fault, the plates travel an incredibly short distance - a matter of feet in most extreme changes - and tension cannot increase to a point where an entire land mass moves many miles relative to another. Therefore, no significant piece of land will separate from another.Instead, pieces of land will move away from each other very slowly, taking millions of years to make large-scale changes.

One end of California can slowly drift until it finally falls underwater, but it can hardly be interpreted as sinking into the ocean.Without a functioning infrastructure, local economy could easily collapse and people would leave Los Angeles.

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