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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

California Faultlines

California Faultlines

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, June 18, 2017/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, art and design, environment

                                     Continental Plates Map (credit: Scripps Institute of Oceanography)

It is not everyday that you can see where plate tectonics happens. The global-spanding, geologic process, that created and carries the Earth's continents on gigantic plates of the Earth's mantle, folds under or slides by each other mostly beneath the oceans. In a few places the faultlines of a plate are located on land. Iceland sits on the middle of the Atlantic Plate (mid-Atlantic ridge) and is spreading apart from the inside of the island outward causing two sections of Iceland to move in opposite directions. An animation explains the basics of the tectonic process.

In Califonria, the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate are grinding past each together on the West Coast. The friction of their slow but constant movement creates earthquakes as pressure is released from deep underground. Los Angeles and San Francisco sit on the edge of the continent and the San Andres Fault runs near both cities. In 1906, San Francisco experienced the deadly consequences of what can happen when the famous faultline shifts abruptly.

The San Andres can be seen from space and was recently captured in a natural-color image of Point Reyes National Seashore. A rift in the coastal landscape, where the two plates are separating, is clearly visible at Tamales Bay in the Landsat-8 image. As the rift separates further during movement of the two continental plates, the bay will eventually become opened to the ocean at the southern end. The western section of the coast will become an island. A similar result of the San Andres will occur on a portion of Southern California, including the Baja peninsula, where another island will be carried along as the Pacific Plate moves north. This will likely take between 3-5 million years to creat both rifts into islands.

 

      Rift Separating Point Reyes National Seashore and Tamales Bay, California, 5-1-2017 (credit: Landsat-8)                    

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